Students from the Posse Scholar Program were invited to attend a forum from 5 to 6 p.m. on May 17th. This forum followed DePauw’s “University Update” email sent at 2:05 p.m. on May 17th, detailing the end of the New York Posse program.
The “University Update” email, which was released to the entire student body, stated that following the next freshman class of New York Posse scholars, DePauw will “replace the New York Posse partnership by expanding and enhancing our partnerships with regional college access organizations in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri.”
May 17th Posse Student Forum
Members of DePauw administration facilitated student questions and concerns at the student forum on May 17th, including Vice President of Student Affairs, John Mark Day, Vice President of Enrollment Management Marybeth Petrie, Vice President of Institutional Equity Dionne Jackson, and Dean of Student Academic Success and Equity Anthony Tillman. President Lori White was not present at the Posse student forum, although she did hold a separate forum with Posse scholars the next day, May 18th. Nearly 200 students and alumni attended the May 17th forum both in-person and over Zoom.
The forum began with introductions and statements by the administration members.
Vice President Petrie spoke first, stating that one of the goals of DePauw’s recent decisions released in the “University Update” email was to “expand something we are doing in a different way.” She also noted that DePauw is hoping to provide more financial support to its Midwestern partners.
“We want to really acknowledge the long history that we have had with the Posse Foundation and continue our partnership with Chicago cohort, and continue to select new students from Chicago,” Petrie added.
Vice President Dionne Jackson then introduced herself to students, before telling them that she has been involved in the discussions surrounding changes to the Posse program since December.
“I know the difficulties around this decision-making, and I’m happy to answer any questions,” Jackson stated.
Dean Anthony Tillman was the last member or the administration to introduce himself. He reassured students that “there was nothing at all that students from New York did or did not do” to influence the decision to cut the New York Posse program.
Over the course of the forum meeting, the four administrators listened and responded to students concerns and questions. After the first round of student comments, Vice President Jackson took the microphone to respond.
Responding to student concerns about a lack of support for Posse students from DePauw, Jackson reflected on a comment made by a Posse mentor in a previous meeting: “To hear a [Posse] mentor say that DePauw would never support, in the ways that are needed, our Posse students, that stung me as a person who chose to come to DePauw to do the work that’s necessary for students to be supported. . . . The reality is, DePauw can and will do what’s necessary. Because when I was hired, that’s what I was hired to do.”
“I do not know why Posse has not been served in the way that it should be served, in the way it deserves to be served as a program and for students who are members of Posse,” Jackson went on to say.
Jackson also spoke on the timeline of DePauw’s decision regarding New York Posse: “At the October board meeting, we as vice presidents and Dr. White were charged with thinking about [the decision] and to come back to the May board meeting with recommendations. The May board meeting ended last Friday, for which the board endorsed the recommendations that came forward.” She noted that following the May board meeting, Dr. White’s cabinet was tasked with deciding when to share their decisions with the student body.
Ultimately, the board chose to alert students about these changes before the end of the semester, with the hopes of allowing students the “space to share” their opinions and feelings. “It was not easy to make the decision to do this today, but as a cabinet we valued giving you this space while you’re here.”
Vice President Petrie then issued her response, thanking students for their comments. “I share the sentiment that Posse should not be the diversity and inclusion initiative. It’s not enough . . . It’s twenty students a year, right? That’s not enough. That’s not enough students . . . We need more students of color on this campus.”
Petrie’s statement elicited sounds of frustration from the crowd of students, and she went on to clarify, “I understand that the next question is ‘Why not do both?’ . . . We need to do more, we need more students of color on this campus . . . We have limited resources to do that with, and we want to expand so that we can impact as many students as possible.” Petrie proceeded to list partner organizations that may receive more funding from DePauw in the future.
Petrie ended her statement by emphasizing that DePauw will continue to recruit students in New York: “We also have hired an admission officer who is going to be in New York . . . We are not giving up, we are going to be there, we are going to be present in ways that I hope you will see in the coming years.”
Student Reactions at the Posse Student Forum
Throughout the forum meeting, students were given the opportunity to voice their concerns and questions regarding DePauw’s decision to end its partnership with the New York Posse program. Some of these comments are listed below.
First-year student Meredith Joncha, a member of Chicago Posse, expressed her frustration with DePauw’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies, stating, “You guys want to work on your diversity and inclusion policies at DePauw, but you’re also talking about how you need to cut costs. . . . it’s sounding like we’re more of a number and a monetary object in this situation.”
“If you look around the room, we are the diversity and inclusion,” Joncha went on to say, eliciting snaps of approval from the crowd.
Another first-year student and New York Posse scholar, Paige Puccerella noted her confusion with the decision to cut the New York Posse program: “If DePauw is attempting to do more outreach and gain more diversity, why getting rid of New York Posse is a way to achieve that? Why can we not do outreach and get diversity from the Midwest while keeping New York Posse? What about New York Posse is stopping DePauw from getting more students of color and getting more diversity?”
Senior New York Posse scholar Ashley Carrasquillo commented on DePauw’s history and foundations, stating that, “DePauw as an institution, regardless of what all of you in this room may be trying to do, exists on racist foundations and is money hungry and greedy and evil. You have used students of color at this school, especially Posse scholars, as capital.”
Carrasquillo also critiqued DePauw’s reasons behind introducing Posse in the first place: “You brought us here so that your white students would understand what it’s like to live around people of color . . . You never wanted us here in the beginning.”
Two DePauw Posse alumni also spoke up in support of continuing the New York Posse cohort.
Junior Omar Hassan spoke last, placing emphasis on the prevalence of student leadership among Posse scholars. “With Posse there is a guarantee for student leaders . . . Look at this room . . . We have kept our promises, we have done what we needed to do. We have stressed, struggled, went through mental breakdowns, went through losses, trauma,” Hassan said. “Yes, diversity and equity is important, and getting it from the Midwest is important. But you don’t face a problem by eliminating one of the solutions.”
As the scheduled hour came to an end, students asked the administration representatives if there was any chance that the decision regarding New York Posse could be reversed. As Jackson responded, students walked out of the room in frustration.
May 18th Posse Tabling with Dr. Lori White
The next day, May 18th, at 1 p.m., Dr. Lori White hosted a meeting with a small group of Posse scholars to answer questions and further explain the decision making process. Dean of Student Academic Success and Equity Anthony Tillman was also present.
“Less than fifty percent of the young people in the state of Indiana go to college, and a college like DePauw feels out of reach for students financially,” Dr. White explained. “I think we have a real obligation to be committed to the folks in Indiana in particular . . . I want to redirect the resources that we’ve invested in Posse New York to supporting students right here in our state.”
Dr. White also recognized the experiences of students of color on DePauw’s campus: “I’m well aware that this has not been a place that has been supportive of people that look like us. . . . I am committed to making DePauw a better place.”
Students expressed frustrations with a lack of communication between administration and the student body regarding the Posse decision. Similarly, they asked Dr. White to expand on her board’s plan to increase diversity without New York Posse, along with how DePauw plans to support current Posse students through their remaining time at DePauw.
“We can set goals with respect to the number of partnerships we want to establish, the places where we are going to put time, energy, and resources,” Dr. White explained. She also expanded on future plans to help heal and support the Posse community based on input from the student attendants, stating, “I’m happy to do that [attend Posse events], so whoever is in charge of calendaring just make sure I know when events are.”
Dr. White ended the meeting by encouraging the Posse scholar attendants to reach out to her with any questions and thoughts regarding the New York Posse decision. Administration at the Student Forum on May 17th also mentioned plans to continue discussions with Posse Scholars over the summer.