Discourse / Editorials / February 25, 2015

Thoughts from the embers: Utilize students, facilitate reform

We believe that there is a serious need for undergraduate representatives to the various academic and athletic departments within the school. The only way things will change on this campus is if positions are created with the idea of reform in mind.

President Teresa Amott spoke twice on campus last week, in part addressing the need for improved communication between academic departments. Amott also cited the need for departments to be better represented within the student body. From a student perspective, it may be difficult to know who to bring your concerns to and even intimidating to bring a critique to a department head.

Communication has dominated the overarching conversation on campus for quite some time. Students started dictating the conversations held on campus with the Walk-out. They stood on the steps of Old Main and spoke out to anyone who would listen.

Different issues were addressed, ranging from international students asserting a lack of counselors from their country of origin, to students of color speaking about the presence of intolerance on campus. This demonstration was just the first in a series of events demonstrating the frustration of not being heard by the administration.

Later, Ariyana Smith’s protest aimed not only to draw attention to the killing of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, but also to her attempt to hold discussions about the holdover of Siwash symbols, racial slurs used by athletes and the treatment of women, minorities and gender nonconforming people.

After the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation, students again took hold of the mic. They spoke about times when they reached out to the administration about the defacing of ABLE house – information that was not shared with the community until well after the fact.

All these events stem from student frustration concerning their voices not being heard. The struggles they encounter in their daily lives are not circulated within the community and therefore the community does not respond accordingly. Students need to feel heard. Mostly, they need to feel as if the person they are talking to has a stake in seeing the system change from status quo, despite the comfort that is found in remaining static.

We understand that if Knox is to truly address issues of racism and other forms of discrimination on campus there needs to be an organized method for students’ grievances to be heard. By placing students concerned with reform in a position to actually recommend and implement changes in departments, students can be empowered without overwhelming faculty members. This would be an opportunity for concerned students to serve as an intermediaries between department heads and their classmates to better grasp the issues students encounter on campus.

If the perception exists that issues brought forth to the administration will be buried and not shared with the community, then an obvious solution is to shift reporting to students who would hear their classmates’ concerns and give them the power to respond and improve upon their grievances.

These students could compile reports to be shared throughout the information hubs of the school (such as TKS or Student Senate). In hearing student concerns, the administration and faculty could put their collective forces behind addressing specific issues. Otherwise, faculty members caught up in the day-to-day happenings of their lives might fail to implement even subtle changes that might better accommodate the needs of our peers.

While we envision these positions as potential posts for post-bacc students or options for class credit, the actual execution can be rather fluid. The idea behind these representatives is that they would have a primary focus in reforming and improving their department based on student input. Thus, unlike many other student leaders on campus, these representatives would have a narrowly tailored goal and the backing of a system that exists for the sole purpose of reform.

By taking an active role in increasing student communication and buy-in to administrative reform, the campus would be left on the proactive side. Open forums and empty apologies can only go so far. Knox needs something new to break the oppressive nature of the status quo.


Tags:  departments diversity inclusion MLK convocation position Post protest reform walk-out

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