Students Petition Administration: Are you really listening to us?
Co-written with Augustus Papasan
One of Southwestern’s most important Core Values is encouraging activism in the pursuit of justice and the common good. DeVonte Rogers attempts to put this activism into action through the Southwestern Student Petition Against The Senior Administrative Staff (2023). The petition addresses several issues that students perceive in SU’s administration. In 2023, the Black Student Union (BSU) created a list of DIBE initiatives for the university to implement; progress on initiatives can be located in the University website. However, students feel that the administration’s responses to recent crimes have been insufficient. Many students who signed Rogers’ petition believe that there is insufficient transparency regarding on-campus crime and perceive a lack of communication that contributes to a sense of distrust between students and the university.
So far, the document has been signed by 184 students. In Rogers’ words, the petition is “focused on enhancing transparency, accountability, and inclusivity at Southwestern University. It aims to create an environment where every student, staff, and faculty member feels heard, supported, safe, and included. It’s important for SU students to recognize that the petition is driven by the pursuit of positive change and improvement, not division or animosity.”
Rogers explains that the petition was born out of his growing resentment with the university’s upper administration. He believes this resentment is felt by many students, and so he speaks on behalf of the organizations, students, alumni, and staff members who signed.
The administration does not agree with the assessment that there has been no response to unresolved cases. Here is a list of responses and actions they have taken:
They have installed cameras and are still accepting information on crime suspects. They also increased patrol in problem areas. The University has also created a new Bias Response Team that is led by Shelley Story and allows for students to report incidents of bias. The team is to be led by the Division and Vice-President in 2024-2025, which the University is currently searching for..
Additionally, the University has developed the Pirate Credo and added it to the “Mission, Purpose, and Values” page of the school website:
As a community:
– We reject intolerance, racism and all forms of oppression.
– We acknowledge the harm of discrimination and endeavor to repair it.
– We confront ignorance with education.
– We work for equity and justice.
– We celebrate the beauty and strength of our differences
Rogers believes that the University administrative staff should make improvements to the campus climate due to the lack of resolution in the cases. Although the University has responded to such issues, Rogers’ concern is that although searches for crime perpetrators have been conducted, no suspect is ever found or arrested. For example, on November 18 a fondling/assault incident transpired on-campus between students and an off-campus stranger. Students weren’t informed of the incident until November 27, more than a week after the event took place. Rogers believes that students should have more efficient transparency regarding events that could jeopardize their safety. Rogers’ ideas for improvements in University response are listed below:
- Mandatory Town Hall: A mandatory town-hall-style meeting must be organized with the entire senior administration present. It should be an open forum with no scripted responses or prepared statements. The aim is to foster candid, open, and unfiltered discussions regarding various sentiments felt on campus.
- Official Appointment of More Diversity Officers and Expansion of the JEDI Center
- Expedited Diversity Initiatives: We urgently request the acceleration of ongoing diversity initiatives and the amplification/creation of a dedicated diversity professionals’ department for the augmentation and extension of existing initiatives
- Regular President’s Corner: Demand the continued implementation of at least one mandatory President’s Corner a month to address the concerns of the community promptly
The University claims that they want to get to the bottom of these issues. Katz states:
“The safety and security of our student community is the foremost priority of the administration, including the Student Life Division. Any messages or vandalistic behavior that threatens our safety and security goals are unwelcomed and subject to severe consequences. If any member of our community possesses evidence or information about the sources of bias incidents or vandalism, we invite you to communicate with Student Life. Anonymity for these communications will be protected.”