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President Trombley Publicly Addresses Student Concerns

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President Trombley Publicly Addresses Student Concerns


What you missed at the President’s Corner…

In light of last week’s eventful protest, President Laura Skandera Trombley hosted an open-ended discussion titled “President’s Corner” regarding the recent discriminatory violations on campus. A circle of chairs were arranged in the Bishop’s Lounge, where Trombley sat for an hour to engage with students directly and give them the opportunity to voice their concerns.

The first question posed by a student was: Why wasn’t the entire campus notified when the racist crimes occurred? What will communication to the entire student body look like moving forward?

President Trombley claimed that she thought the email regarding the noose in Ruter and the whiteboard slurs in Clark went out to the entire campus, not just the students living in those dorms. Given the small, rapid network between students on a small campus, tackling this issue is a necessity. She assured students that in the future—all students, staff, and faculty will be notified if an event of the sort occurs again. President Trombley welcomed suggestions on how to better engage with the SU community in a more effective manner than dense emails and Facebook posts. Students agreed that receiving text messages, phone calls, or notifications from a Southwestern University app is preferable, as well as mandatory alerts regarding any potential future hate crimes. President Trombley also confirmed that a new SU app will be implemented by next year, as she believes that students need an operable app for efficient communication and convenience.

When asked about her thoughts on the protest, President Trombley stated “I think you’re right. I think you’re right in a number of ways.” Since the start of her presidency in July of 2020, she remarked that this year has been her first real opportunity to observe student life on campus without the pandemic. She stated that this was the “most real thing she’s seen on campus,”  but added that she did not appreciate the bashing of Mark Twain. She believes the campus needs more events that will bring the community together and that it “breaks her heart” to see such a lack of community among students.

President Trombley also informed the crowd that she has observed many deep-seated issues in not only the university’s administration, but Georgetown’s government as well. Southwestern is a small university, but a large part of the Georgetown community. She emphasized her disapproval of the confederate statue on the square, stating that she had to pull over the first time she arrived here to process what she saw.

Discussing DIBE (Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging, and Equity), President Trombley told the students that administration needs to start actually practicing these four pillars of belief in decision making and governments. To begin, faculty meetings only occur once a month, and each individual can only talk for a short amount of time. She wants to make sure she hears every individual’s thoughts thoroughly and to not try to cut it short. Meetings with the staff steering committee and staff as a whole only take place once a semester, and she wants more of these meetings to take place going forward. She informed the crowd that these kinds of meetings usually occur in Alma Thomas Theater, a performative setting. These meetings will now be taking place in a more intimate setting like Bishops Lounge, where she can have a discussion with the faculty or staff, so it’s more personal and not a performance.

President Trombley expressed her concern for the lack of a university student council, which should be made up of students that equally represent the student body. She wants this to happen so she can talk to students about their concerns regarding events on campus. This will help with the lack of communication; she has already reached out to and appointed a couple of students. 

To ensure the practice of DIBE, she is making a commission of twenty representatives made up of faculty, staff, and students. Southwestern has set aside $20,000 toward hiring experts for mandatory diversity and inclusion training during Welcome Week for all incoming students. Training will be made available to faculty, as well, as there needs to be a clear understanding of expectations for all members of the Southwestern community. Students attending the meeting emphasized that this sort of training should also be reinforced and given to current students in all classes. Trombley noted that SU doesn’t currently have the ability to do this, but that she intends to continue to prioritize funding diversity training.

The following question was that of a clear definition against racism: What is it and how will we reinforce that this kind of behavior is not tolerated at Southwestern?

There are consequences, but we don’t share them well. President Trombley said she will make sure they are emphasized during Welcome Week. The systems being put into place moving forward will affect incoming students; it’s easiest this way. She said that this is a “we” issue—the entire community must step up. 

A question regarding student engagement arose: How will every student be involved in the process towards an inclusive environment?

President Trombley previously stated that the protest was the largest group of people she’s seen on campus since she arrived, and that wasn’t even half of the student body. How will student engagement help if no one is engaging? Her response was simply that this kind of thing does not happen overnight. Currently the community is reacting, not in the stage of taking action—yet. To create change, you have to start from the beginning so it can spread. Therefore, the RA training will be much more intricate, because they face the brunt of all of the action and reactions. 

Lastly, a question regarding DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training was asked: what DEI training has President Trombley had?

She told the crowd that she has always been interested and invested in these kinds of issues. As part of the 26% of women presidents in higher education, inclusion and equity are topics that are extremely important to her. She informed everyone that her mission is to “provide extraordinary education for every single person.”

In short, there has been a giant lack of communication in administration that causes students to feel unheard and invalidated. Fortunately, students can rest assured: President Trombley recognizes these issues and has set detailed plans in place for better, swifter action moving forward. Racism will not be tolerated at Southwestern University. When asked by a student if she could follow through on her demands, Trombley assured them that she will follow through: “I don’t bullshit. I just don’t. I don’t have time for it.”

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