BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO // Dec. 1, 2017 //
For the first time since bias incidents riddled campus, Curry College students were able to have their voices heard, clearly and uninterrupted, at the student-run public forum inside the Katz Gymnasium.
Although half the size, students, faculty, and staff alike filled the gym for the Curry Hear Our Voice Student-Centered and Student-Run Forum organized by Curry College Student Activists.
Those who had questions for administrators were advised to sit at one of the round tables over the middle, although the general assembly around the rest of the court was still free to participate. A set of ground rules for the forum were placed on every seat and table, along with a QF code that students could use to submit questions and comments throughout the forum.
The event consisted of three parts: a small-group discussion, the public forum, and a question-and-answer session.
The small-group discussion was led with two prompts: What do you know about the bias incidents and how have they affected you?
These discussions led into the next portion, the public forum when students and faculty were allowed to take the stand, state their concerns, and make comments without interruption from the administration.
The first student to take the mic was sophomore psychology major Michela Flowers, who was directly affected by the bias incidents this fall. Flowers recounted the incident and told the room how she thought nothing was being done to truly make a change and right the wrongs.
“I can’t listen to a speech about Diversity from someone who isn’t diverse at all,” said Flowers, referring to the “Hate Has No Home Here” Public Forum held by President Kenneth Quigley and Administration.
Kai Monk, a sophomore biology major who identifies as non-binary and has experienced hate because of it, reported their incidents but feels the College did not do much else.
“As far as I’m aware,” Monk stated, “an email wasn’t even sent out and the student body wasn’t informed.”
However, after those statements, the forum slowed down with silences permeating the crowd, anticipating who could be the next to build up the courage to stand up and speak.
Student facilitator Paulina Adams took the mic in an attempt to motivate the crowd saying, “This is a place where you can speak out…participate, because that’s the only way change is going to happen.”
Finally, students began to line up to take the mic and a number of anonymous online questions and comments were read.
Students told stories of times when they or a friend experienced discrimination, or when discrimination has just simply been prominent on campus, in the residence halls, and even in the classrooms. These stories called out Professors for profiling, student-athletes for hate and sexual misconducts, and administration for brushing off students’ concerns.
Some students were emotional. Other students were confused. Many more students were angered.
Student-body Vice President Rachel O’Donnell took the mic and reminded everyone that “it starts with us as students, how we treat each other and talk to each other…it’s important.”
O’Donnell continued simply, “We need to be kinder human beings.”
After nearly 90 minutes of comments and concerns flooded out, the forum moved into its question-and-answer session. This session allowed students and faculty to take the mic and directly ask any Administrator any question.
While a number of topics were discussed, such as security cameras on campus, the handling of sexual misconducts, and rhetoric, much of the Q&A revolved around the implementation of policies and what administration will do to improve these policies.
A question was brought up regarding what happens during the student-conduct process and why students who have been found guilty of hate crimes are eventually let back on campus.
Director of Student Conduct, Melissa DeGrandis, explained that students who commit these bias incidents should first have a chance to be educated rather than immediately removed from the school. DeGrandis also explained that assessments should be put in place to determine if these students will continue to be a concern and should, therefore, be permanently removed from campus.
Many students stood up and responded that hate cannot be educated. However, the consensus from administration was the same; that regardless of the process, what happens to these individuals is not public information to be shared with the student body.
Community Director Mia Fuller reiterated that although their actions are not excused, bigoted individuals should still be given the chance to be educated because the only way to help ignorance is with education.
As a follow-up, a question was asked about the establishment or reformulating of a No Hate Policy on campus. However, after the question was asked, no one from the administration stood up to respond.
As students began to uproar in frustration, Vice President of Student Affairs Maryellen Kiley took the mic asking for clarification and then stating that a No Hate Policy already exists on campus. She added that she is happy to sit with students to establish new codes for specific language
“Can we do better? Yes,” said Vice President Kiley. “What does that mean? I don’t know.”
At the end of the night, the overwhelming consensus from those in attendance is that the changing of these policies has taken far too long.
Multiple students brought up the idea of implementing mandatory diversity classes to Curry’s curriculum. Some Professors, like Julian Bryson of Fine and Applied Arts, told students that they would be more than happy to work with students in planning new courses.
Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, Carrie Coakley, additionally brought up the fact that the newly implemented General Education program requires 6 credits of Diversity courses for students.
The formal conversation ended just before 9:30 p.m., a half hour after the intended end time. However, students were encouraged to stay, talk, and send more information to the online form.
“We are just beginning the conversation,” said student facilitator Victoria Parks at the close of the forum.
Students have been encouraged to continue sending in their stories, questions, comments, and concerns, as administration will continue to read and respond.