By Cecilia Cress and Olivia Montes
On Dec. 10, 2021, the Washington College Office of Student Affairs, alongside the Black Student Union, Student Government Association, and Public Safety, released a campus-wide email outlining the overview of the joint meeting that occurred on Dec. 6.
According to the email, students, staff, and faculty members met to discuss PS’s presence at BSU’s Dec. 2 meeting with Mayor of Chestertown David Foster, and the details of PS’s presence at future campus events.
This meeting occurred in response to the Dec. 6 protest in Martha Washington Square, where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents gathered to support BSU and, as a Dec. 5 Instagram post by BSU read, “hold Public Safety accountable.”
“The protest wasn’t just about one incident, but a need for serious change on campus,” junior SGA Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion Nali Gowon said.
“Time is ticking, and we’re just students who are getting more and more frustrated as we see a lack of action. So I think that [the College is] starting to realize we have a fire beneath us and it’s not going to go out until we see some progress,” Senior SGA President Kat DeSantis said.
In response, the groups met and agreed on several solutions regarding PS’s presence on campus and at events.
“PS officers will make a greater effort to engage with students in casual, informal settings,” according to the email. Officers will also “check Campus Groups, social media, and the College calendar to attend and participate in events, with the intention of building relationships with students.” PS officers will also undergo annual diversity and bias training.
However, it was agreed by all parties that PS officers will not attend “student-led meetings and events, particularly the BSU events/meetings, without seeking explicit invitation from the students in charge of the meeting/event,” according to the email.
The meeting also served as a platform to readdress the 2020 List of Demands authored by BSU and other concerns that have not been met. These demands include “improved campus safety measures, hiring a Chief Diversity Officer, mandated diversity and bias training for all members of campus,” and others, according to the email.
“When the [2020 List of Demands] was brought back up at the meeting, it was really important that we showed how we’ve stayed stagnant for a couple years, and that some of the promises that were made were definitely not followed through,” PS Liaison and President of the Class of 2025 Stephen Hook said.
Further discussion concerning the 2020 List of Demands and 2021 Updated Demands during the meeting included the prioritization of establishing a Chief Diversity Officer, continuing to maintain the Intercultural Center in Minta Martin to ensure safe spaces are available and accessible, improved communication in case of a bias-related incident or safety concern, and improvement of the quality, number, and placement of security cameras around campus because “ensuring adequate lighting around campus is a key measure in making sure students feel safe walking around in the dark and ensuring the cameras have an accurate picture of incidents that may transpire,” according to the email.
“I think the agreed solutions are a starting point. WC and Chestertown have too long of a history for there to be only one solution that solves everything. To maintain DEI at WC there must be continuous efforts not just from students but faculty as well,” Gowon said.
While many students support the solutions proposed as a result of the meeting, many others are still wary that they may not be implemented as promised.
“Actions speak louder than words and at the end of the day, students want to feel safe and welcomed on their campus. The solutions would need to be directly implemented and there would need to be a change or else the meeting would be similar to the ones held before it,” junior BSU Vice President Mariama Keita said.
“I would say that it was a conversation that was, for lack of a better term, long overdue. [But I felt] the administrators were very willing to listen and to put action steps forward, and…our [BSU’s] goal for this year is to really end those repeated stories,” junior BSU President Jonah Nicholson said.
According to Hook, a main focus this semester involves pursuing and keeping students informed on the progress made towards these solutions. Hook said that he will be following up with Director of PS Pam Hoffmann to make sure the annual bias training and other solutions are being completed, and that as well as communicating with fellow students is upheld.
“We needed to start somewhere, and this [letter] is a great set of goals we have listed out. I think it’s important for students to realize that this is not going to happen overnight, as it should have happened many years ago, but this is all work that we’re continuing to do,” Hook said.
Elm Archive Photos
Featured Photo Caption: Representatives from the Washington College Black Student Union, Student Government Association, Public Safety, and the Office of Student Affairs met in the Casey Academic Center and presented key outcomes and solutions resulting from their discussion following the Dec. 6 protest in Martha Washington Square a few days before.