DePauw community stands in solidarity with students of color at the University of Missouri, discuss similar issues on DePauw's campus

878

Members of the DePauw community join together in solidarity against racism Wednesday during 
lunch in the Holton Memorial Academic Quad. REBECA BAGDOCIMO / THE DEPAUW

The battle for equality and safety for all students on DePauw’s campus continues in the wake of disturbances from other universities across the country in regards to increased racial tension and lack of safety for students who identify as “different.”

At 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, students, faculty and staff met in front of Roy O’West library to stand in solidarity for the students at the University of Missouri and in relation, the campus climate at DePauw.

The University of Missouri has seen a spike in tension surrounding the resignation of their president, Jim Wolfe, over neglect to address racist acts on campus and failure to protect the safety of people of color. African American students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri were harassed and threatened with violence in the days that followed Wolfe’s resignation.

Sophomore Michael Chaves helped organize the meeting of solidarity on Wednesday during the lunch hour.

“I felt it was necessary,” Chaves said.

History professor Glen Kuecker assisted by reaching out to members of the faculty.

“Just know that people really care,” said Vince Greer, director of Multicultural Student Services.

Greer and others spoke without a microphone as the crowd was quiet enough to hear every word.

Students talked about current issues, microaggressions from both students and faculty, verbal assaults from other students on campus and the failure of Public Safety to properly acknowledge student safety.

Kuecker had had enough.

“There is a major issue on this campus that must be addressed this minute,” he said to the circle of over 30 students, faculty and staff, “If that is not addressed I will no longer teach at this university.”

Students voiced the feeling of not being safe, and that Public Safety officers do not care about these types of complaints. Junior Ines Giramata  talked about how the situation at the University of Missouri is similar to events that happen on DePauw’s campus.

“People get threatened here every single day,” she said.

Vice President for Student Life, Christopher Wells, was present during the majority of the three and a half hour congregation and said of Public Safety, “the current staffing of Public Safety may not be adequate.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs, Anne Harris and President Brian Casey stopped by the circle after 12:30 p.m. Casey left early but Harris stayed through the rest of the event.

Thursday afternoon, Casey sent an email to DePauw alumni about DePauw’s efforts to create a more inclusive and safe community for all students.

“DePauw has seen—over the past several years and during the course of this semester—incidents that show that we must work in increasingly diligent and thorough ways in service of these ends,” he wrote.

In the email, Casey continued to list several initiatives taken by the university over the last several years including the Diversity and Equity Committee plan for the coming years and the work that will be done to renovate student safe spaces for international students, students of color and LGBTQ students.

Director of Public Safety, Angela Nally, came to the solidarity event and stood with students for some time to hear their stories. She called the current situation at DePauw to be the product of “institutionalized racism.”

Kuecker responded to Nally.

“That is the first time I have ever heard someone from the administration say that about DePauw University,” said Kuecker. “It's negligence, it’s ignorance, it’s deliberate ignoring and covering [by the university].”

The conversation Wednesday afternoon shifted to the influence that Greek life plays on DePauw’s campus. “You’re in a position of privilege and power,” said Harris talking to a member of a fraternity.

Harris was overcome with emotion about what the administration has and has not done to help protect DePauw students and pushed for the conversations to continue outside of the circle.

“Be strong,” said Chaves, “Please take care of yourselves and take care of each other.”

As of Thursday, DePauw students began showing their support for the University of Missouri students who are being harassed and attacked with this Facebook status, which has been posted by multiple DePauw students in the past few days:

“To the students of color at Mizzou, we, the student allies of DePauw University, stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, we are watching. #ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarityWithMizzou.”