Students Present Proposals for Institutional Change to Administration

Rosemary Boeglin, News Editor

Students calling for institutional change with an eye toward social justice, diversity and inclusion presented their proposals to the administration on Friday, April 5 and to students and the public two days later in Finney Chapel.

These proposals, a result of student working groups meeting regularly in Afrikan Heritage House over the last month, aim to clearly enumerate proposals for systemic reform within the Conservatory, departments of natural sciences, athletics and curriculum, with an additional emphasis on trainings and workshops for faculty, staff and students.

Though the College has yet to formally commit to the implementation of the proposals, suggested a multitude of changes, including establishing an additional branch of the Multicultural Resource Center specifically within the Conservatory, revitalizing a text alert system for emergencies or hate-related incidents.

Friday’s meeting between administrators and student leaders gave organizers hope that their proposals would translate into College policy and initiatives according to AD Hogan, senior class president and organizer in responses to February’s slew of hate speech and graffiti.

“The administration is responding really positively to this. They’re saying, ‘Yeah, we can do this; we can implement this.”

Senior Chinwe Okona, an organizer of student responses since February, shared Hogan’s positive outlook regarding future collaboration between students and administrators.

“Kind of what came out of the events of March 4 was a real drive to do something, because we were expecting the administration to not back us [completely],” Okona said. “But I think they’ve really stepped up and are beginning to see the ways in which these issues are really important. So they’ve been really great — listening really well and being receptive to change.”

Dean of Student Life Eric Estes said the administration is already in conversation with students to discuss institutional changes.

“I thought the meeting was very productive and want to thank students for their constructive leadership,” Estes said in an email to the Review. “The proposals are important and we, as an administration, are already in conversation with the working groups about short- and long-term possibilities moving forward.”

While Friday’s meeting with administrators served to reify a commitment on the part of the administration to collaborate in future efforts to reform policies within the College and Conservatory, Sunday’s convocation in Finney was a platform to present the outcome of the last month’s work.

“We’re going to see something that’s not a complaint, that’s not up for discussion; we discussed those demands. Basically we’re going to present it to the student body and the general public as, ‘This is what’s happening,’ instead of saying, ‘We want this to happen,’” Hogan said.

This momentum will, ideally, focus attention on action rather than reaction, according to Hogan.

“It’s changing the connotation from being reactive, to being proactive. It’s actually a very useful technique to change the conversation around [the student proposals for change],” Hogan said.

Student leaders were joined by fellow organizers in Finney on Sunday, but the presentation of the proposals did not garner the large crowds present during events in March.

“I expected a lot more people to be there, especially people who are so concerned with allyship, etcetera,” Hogan said. “So I think that, to me, said that things are slowing down and people are thinking about it much less. … I thought this was also one of the most important things to come out of all this, and people weren’t there.”

Despite this apparent reprieve in commitment to activism on the part of the campus at large since the events on March 4, Hogan emphasized that student-backed support — with collaboration from administrators, faculty and board members — is essential to the success of efforts for systemic reform.

Estes said that within the Division of Student Life, efforts are already underway to redress some of the concerns expressed by students and include student input in that process.

“While there was not a specific student life working group, there were other proposals that the division can work on with students with the goal of implementation by the beginning of the fall of 2013 semester,” Estes said.

Hogan and Okona both emphasized that students should channel concerns to faculty and board members, in addition to the administration.

“It also falls on the Board of Faculty, because the administration, they can do a lot of stuff, but we’re faculty and board-governed. So the board has to implement some stuff as far as finances. …The board controls a lot of the money so the board can make pretty big differences,” Hogan said.

Meetings and trainings will be held this month in an effort to ensure a smooth transition between underclassmen and graduating student leaders, deans and interim deans.