The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

SGA hosts town hall to voice student concerns about issues around campus

4 min read

SGA hosted a town hall meeting for students to voice concerns directly to the administration. | The Climate Reality Project / Unsplash

by PRIYA PATEL & HANNAH BUCK

Senior Writer & Staff Writer

On Oct. 18, the Student Government Association (SGA) held a town hall, both in Dodd Auditorium and over Zoom, to allow students to communicate their concerns directly to the UMW administration. Some students feel that their voices were not heard at this event. 

“I feel like the school should definitely follow through on the solutions that they’re proposing, like stating that they’re going to put up more cameras,” said Jordan Providence, a junior English major. “I’d like to see that the school actually follows through on them instead of just saying those things to comfort students of color on campus.”

At the event, Providence specifically asked about what accountability is being held for the anonymously posted white supremacist fliers and the misworded email from the administration that followed. The email, sent on Sept. 20, used the term “Blacks,” inciting anger from members of the UMW community. 

In response to the fliers, Juliette Landphair, vice president for Student Affairs, said that it is hard to prevent these individuals from coming onto campus because UMW is a public university, but the university is planning to add more cameras and a new blue light.

Providence believes that the UMW police could do more to prevent these anonymous postings.

“It is very concerning that we have a 24-hour police system, but these police are not constantly roaming the campus,” said Providence. “If our campus is an open campus, then I feel like we should have 24-hour protection.”

Radical Student Union (RSU) chair Salem Smith, a senior English major in the five-year education program, attended the event. On behalf of RSU, Smith voiced that the town hall should have been a student-led event rather than one headed by the administration.  

“We admire the SGA’s efforts to provide a platform for student voices,” said Smith. “However, we were once again fed bullshit by admin, and it would’ve been a more productive evening if it had actually been a student-led, collaborative response to years-long demands for significant change.”

Stefanie Lucas-Waverly, the Title IX coordinator, gave a presentation explaining the Office of Title IX, including the complaint process. Later on during the town hall, Landphair also gave a presentation on white supremacist and extremist messaging on college campuses. Between presentations, there were opportunities for students to ask questions.

“We decided to hold a town hall after consistently hearing the same concerns from students during tabling, as well as through the different clubs and organizations we are in,” said SGA secretary Sophia Hobbs, a senior history major. “These concerns include campus safety, sexual assault and harassment and white supremacy on campus.”

Maya Jenkins, a junior political science and women’s, gender and sexuality studies double major and the president of the NAACP chapter on campus, attended the town hall as well.

“I do feel like it was productive in the fact that it gave people a voice who had not, and systematically, have not been able to have a voice on this campus,” said Jenkins. “So that was productive on SGA’s part.”

However, Jenkins also said that the administration was not giving sufficient responses.

“I thought that [the answers] were insufficient at the least, triggering at the most,” she said.

Providence felt similarly. 

“The answers they gave us were not real answers,” said Providence.

Instead of having the police work with bias incidents, Jenkins suggested that a separate division could be created.

SGA President Brianna “Breezy” Reaves opened the event by laying down some ground rules, emphasizing that students should not hold back their thoughts but should also not feel pressured to speak. 

This was followed by a presentation from Marissa Miller, Director of Center for Prevention and Education (CPE), on the purpose of the CPE. This presentation mentioned a new 2021 grant to establish the Office on Violence Against Women.

Undeclared sophomore Andie Lee spoke at the event after they were verbally harassed on campus by a parent touring UMW. They stated that they were not immediately directed to resources for help and were told to “talk it out” with their professors. 

After speaking with three professors, Lee finally spoke to Landphair, who told them they could submit a student bias report.

When asked what could be done to prevent harassment and provide resources to transgender students, Miller responded that the harassment incident did not fall under Title IX, but she was willing to connect and figure out how to navigate the incident. Miller also stated that the new Chief Diversity Officer, under the diversity program, will be added to that conversation.

“I feel like the administration and faculty finally had the opportunity to hear our pain and physically see the stress that these issues on campus are causing us,” Providence said.

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