Knox has become stagnant. The fact that communication issues exist is obvious even to the administration, but the underlying issue is clearly the school’s inability to admit its shortcomings.
This past week saw two events designed to be rooted in communication between the administration and the greater campus body. On Monday evening, a “campus conversation” was held aimed at the topic of diversity and inclusion at Knox. Then on Tuesday night, President Teresa Amott came to Student Senate for her annual State of the College Address. At both events, Amott emphasized the need for improved communication on campus.
The communication problem at Knox stems from different departments and groups on campus not sharing information with one another. While this is true and worth mentioning, Knox has bigger fish to fry. In recent years, the school has shifted its focus to the Office of Communications, pouring money into a better website and ad materials for prospective students. If the same effort was directed internally, we’re sure some solutions could be found.
The issue of racial tension on campus, however, will not be solved with money and a website lift. On of the most glaring gaps in the State of the College Address was the failure to mention race even once in the speech. The issue was skimmed via talk of working on a new bias report system and Teresa’s reference to the defacing of A.B.L.E (even though the house was not named).
Given the recent protests, forums and student concerns that have been raised publicly and in private meetings with the president, we fully expected a candid talk expressing what has been learned or at the very least an update from the conversation that occurred the previous night.
There is a different communication problem Knox has to address. The school seems unwilling or unable to admit wrongdoing in a timely and effective manner. There is no way the administration can expect to improve if it cannot admit that it has problems in the first place.
It is worth mentioning that President Amott did formally apologize for any lack of support from the administration for Ariyana Smith and other forms of student activism. This type of apology is crucial if Knox wishes to go forward and improve, but it is noted that this apology is very incomplete and late in the game. As great as it would have been to have administrative support for protests, the goal of these movements was to fix problems at Knox, not to get a pat on the back.
Through her protest and subsequent interviews, we know that the reason Ariyana felt so compelled to demonstration was the lack of attention the athletic department and administration paid to racial issues that were being voiced. To apologize to her for not supporting her demonstration but not for the issues that lead up to the protest just demonstrate all the more that she was correct: no one was listening.
No one on campus is expecting a perfect environment; especially considering many of the problems Knox is facing concerning racism, sexism and heteronormativism are indicative of societal problems that predate Knox itself. Yet if the school is to continually hold up its progressive ideals and commitment to social justice it must track a proactive, rather than reactive, role for the future. Waiting for there to be enough outrage to hold a forum is not enough.
The start of this progressivism is rather simple. The administration must admit that things are far from perfect and that they are actually dedicated to fixing things. Keeping a pristine image for prospective students is useless if the current members of the Knox community are feeling victimized and unheard.