To voice concerns about the official launch of DePauw’s School of Business and Leadership, student activists from the Democratic Socialists of DePauw (DSD) conducted a protest at the Kresge Auditorium of the Green Center of Performing Arts during the Oct. 4 speaker lecture featuring guest Jeff Ubben and alumnus Steve Sanger '68, moderated by Jon Forrt '98.
Raising signs that read “Fund Education, Not Administration,” “Money For People, Not For Buildings,” and “Is it DePauw or DeProfit?”, protestors advocated against the increased alumni endowment allocation to the School of Business and Leadership due to concerns on departmental budget cuts, student diversity, on-campus accessibility, and the commitment to liberal arts.
“It is undemocratic and not fair for one person who's not even a student here to donate millions of dollars and then get to decide what our existence and what our life here is going to be like,” DSD member Vivienne Edwards '24 said. “Why are we asking [our donors] for money for a skylight or for a building renovation…when we could be asking for money to invest in the music program?”
Aside from the School of Music program, Edwards described other on-campus issues that protestors believed were overlooked by the administration.
“The spaces that New York Posse students have created on campus, those are under attack too. So many students of color are [also] traumatized and made to feel unsafe daily," they said. "[Additionally,] anyone who's on work-study and has had their hours cut back is affected by this, [along with] anyone who is in a student organization and has had their budget cut.”
"So many students of color are [also] traumatized and made to feel unsafe daily." - Vivienne Edwards, '24
Around 30 students engaged in the protest, according to Paige Burgess '25.
“[We] held up our signs for the rest of the show, and then it was pretty dark. So it was hard to see the signs but people really couldn't look away,” Burgess said. “We had started a chant that was ‘No more business, no more greed, art and music is what we need.’”
DSD member America Bañuelos '24 also noticed the discouragement of student opposition during speaker lectures in DePauw’s Student Handbook, which only permits “non-disruptive counter speech or protest” where DePauw students “may not suppress speech, obstruct events, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to engage in their own permitted acts of expression.”
"The language that they use regarding demonstrations and protests very much shows that they don't want students to use their voices because it's to the detriment of them to the detriment of us," Bañuelos said.
Moreover, Edwards pointed out how armed officers from the DePauw Police were present at the doors of the Kresge Auditorium. “As a [Resident Assistant,] I've heard the DePauw Police’s guiding philosophies…[but] there's a lot of students who don't feel safe around police for really legitimate reasons,” she added.
At the end of the speaker lecture, President Lori White invited the student activists onstage.
“I thought it was important that the people who couldn't see the signs on either side had a chance to read the students’ messages…there was an opportunity for a dialogue back and forth to me that had much greater impact than a protest that might have resulted in people attempting to shut down the event,” President White said.
Meanwhile, Dr. John Clarke, the Dean of the School of Business and Leadership, highlighted the panelists’ willingness to engage with the protestors. “We mentioned [the possibility of a protest] to the panelists, so they wouldn't be surprised. They were kind of universally offered to engage directly with the students and [were] happy to talk to the students.”
However, Bañuelos expressed her frustration that Dr. Clarke and President White did not engage with student activists directly after the event.
“For the majority of that hour, Dr. Lori White, Dean Clarke, John Mark Day, and several other administrators probably were also in that room. And at no point in time did they try to be a part of that conversation. So administrators…if you don't start listening to students, your commentary means nothing…until you sit down and you listen to students who are sitting here using our voices.”
"If you don't start listening to students, your commentary means nothing" - America Bañuelos, '24
Both Dr. Clarke and President White have offered to meet with students separately to talk about their concerns.
Moreover, President White clarified that alumni Steve and Karen Sanger and Sharon and Tim Ubben specifically requested the allocation of their endowments toward the Business School, addressing students’ misconceptions about the distribution of DePauw’s financial resources. She also emphasized how most of the DePauw community forgets about the school's leadership aspect while focusing on the business side, citing the success of alumni who became CEOs of for-profit companies and leaders in impactful fields.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clarke explained that he does not see a diversion of resources but a shift in attention toward the potential of the School of Business and Leadership.
"We're trying to send a message to prospective students that this is a great place to come and study liberal arts, but also to come if you're interested in business. We've been doing Management Fellows as an example of something that you could put in the general business area [that] has been going on for 40 years," he said.
"we're trying to send a message to prospective students that this is a great place to come and study liberal arts, but also . . . business." - dean John clarke, phd
Dr. Clarke also coordinated with stakeholders from other campuses who are interested in modeling DePauw's unique three-school model. Other initiatives include potential speaker lectures with women leaders and career-readiness tools in collaboration with the Hubbard Center.
"As we are promoting and developing new programs, improving courses and course offerings and thinking about different opportunities for students, I hope that people will see and they should see that those are not just for a subset of students, but are designed for everybody," Dr. Clarke said.