On Thursday, February 8th, students of DePauw’s Posse program held a peaceful protest of the discontinuation of their New York branch. When the program was first initiated in 1996, it only existed for applicants in New York. After celebrating 25 years of Posse in 2022, DePauw has cut ties with its New York program. Many students have made clear that they are upset about the issue, especially since there is such a great sense of community fostered amongst students within Posse. Christopher, NY Posse ‘27, attested to having an “overwhelmingly positive experience” with his group, and appreciates getting to know upperclassmen through this commonality as well. To show solidarity with their community, protesters linked arms in a semicircle in the GCPA, as the Board of Trustees dinner was ongoing. This protest followed their semesterly meeting for the Posse Plus retreat, from which their liaison Dr. Anthony Tillman was absent. 

John Mark Day, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, informed the student protesters that coming too close to the event would be a violation of university policy, but details of the restriction were not provided. The student handbook states, on the rights of non-disruptive protest, that “The broad protection of freedom of expression is particularly necessary for speakers and messages who represent a minority, opposition, or unpopular opinions or challenge authority and the status quo.” Many Posse students are people of color, and have expressed anger regarding what they view to be the phasing out of students of color from DePauw’s population. Students have also voiced frustration regarding a lack of transparency from administration, as well as poor communication between Posse mentors. Generally, these students feel that their concerns are being ignored and their voices are not valued. Students noted that a main issue is that they were only notified of the discontinuation of New York Posse ex post facto, and the overall absence of honesty and regard frustrates them.

But why was Posse cut? Many DePauw students feel that there is not much clarity on why exactly it happened, but Michelle-Lee, NY Posse ‘24, speculated on potential reasons based on information that she received. She stated that university administration wants to focus more on students of color in the Midwest, which mistakenly creates a generalized view of people from marginalized communities all over the United States, since “people of color from New York will not have the same politics, culture and lifestyle as those from Indiana”.To Lee, it feels like “Posse is a diversity program for the university, and students of color are used to fill a quota”, without actually being valued and respected as individuals. Students feel that they are further not given adequate support for internships by the Hubbard Center and that there is little representation of the Latinx community, especially with the Latin and Caribbean studies program being allocated a mere $100 budget. Since students of color have been advocating for themselves for quite some time, Lee mentions that changes to the program may be in retaliation to their pushback. Ironically, Dr Tillman characterized Posse as “the epitome of privilege elected elitism” during the retreat.

Maya, NY Posse ‘25, expressed their disappointment in Dr Tillman’s absence from Posse’s general meeting due to his presence at the trustee dinner. In his three terms thus far as Posse liaison, “he took over a lot of responsibilities but hasn’t provided any deliverables or solved problems.” Having been at DePauw for nearly three years, Maya stated that they have not seen any action on and sensitivity about issues students have been facing. These include the poor upkeep of university owned housing, black mold in washers and dryers at Mason, Reese and Lucy Rowland Halls and flea infestations that have not been exterminated. They recognized that “these issues disproportionately affect students of color, as the university is increasingly being run like a business and prioritizing its fiduciary responsibility over students.” Maya stated that they feel gaslit and dismissed by Posse staff, university administrators and even other students outside of the program upon voicing concern about these problems. At the protest, a trustee who was in Posse during their time here, allegedly told students that going through these things will make them stronger and that protesting will not help much. President White also did not have much to say to the protesters, Maya stated, but addressed them by saying she looks forward to their meeting on Monday, February 12th. 

Moreover, Posse students question the recent $200 million investment in its use and possible benefits to create more financial aid, improved housing and facilities, funding for faculty research programs and more. It seems likely that part of the amount will be used to repay the debt that the university has been in, as it dipped into more than its endowment than is typically allowed. What is being done with the rest of it has not been disclosed, and it is unlikely that we will find out in the near future. Several Posse members voiced interest in these funds being used to create more financial and living support on campus. 

Posse students expressed low expectations for their meeting with President White on Monday, Feb. 12, due to their feeling unheard in previous meetings. Their demands, on the other hand, are that administration listens to what they say and acts upon it to better the experience of current and future disadvantaged students at DePauw.