Student protesting recapped

Hamline students participated in a protest Sept. 15 to address a long history of what students called “institutional failings” and “silencing.”

Anika Besst and Eliza Hagstrom

*updated Sep. 16th*

Four Hamline students have organized a protest for Thursday, Sept. 15 from 11:306:30 p.m.  on the Old Main Lawn. This comes after a speech Hamline President Fayneese Miller made during the Student Organization Leader Workshop on Sept. 11. 

The goals of the protest include a public apology from Miller and for the promise of an open forum for students to talk to the president about Hamline and student concerns. 

As of 4 p.m. on Sept. 14, speakers at the protest include students, faculty and alum. The list includes Travis Matthew, Abi Grace Mart, Kinzie McDowell, An Gargagiola-Bernier, Jazmin Clausen-Thomas and Associate Professor in the Sociology Department Susi Keefe. 

Speakers will address what protest organizers are calling areas of “instituational failings,” including disability and accessibility resources, Title IX and Sexual Violence Prevention and Residential Life facilities. 

“The goal is to get the accountability that the student body deserves…Our impact on this university as a student body is much more powerful than President Miller’s impact as an individual,” sophomore protest organizer Abi Grace Mart said. “I think that respect needs to be given and it should be given in the form of an apology and in the form of an open discussion, town hall-style, where we are able to go to her [to] express our concerns, get it directly from the President on how change is going to be made. Because if she can’t express how that change is going to be made, then that is where we can directly with proof with evidence hold her accountable.” 

Protest organizers also include senior LaNiesha Bisek, Kinzie McDowell and junior Brian Perez Cortez

They began organizing this event in the late hours of Sept. 13 into the early morning of Sept. 14. 

The organizers have reached out to other faculty and Hamline university members, some of whom declined to participate for varying reasons. 

“We have had professors turn us down not because they don’t agree…but because they feel that if they do speak on the subject, that there is a high chance of them being fired,” Mart said. “I think that is something that is absolutely outrageous and should be highlighted because as an institution Hamline boasts about being equal, about being fair, about being different from everybody else. But if there are professors here who are so worried about being fired that they will not speak out on issues that they feel powerful about, then what are we doing? What is the point of this institution?” 

The entire speech, which can be listened to here, sparked concerns on social media. Protest organizers echoed these concerns. 

A recording of a section of Miller’s speech was taken by a student in attendance and posted to social media where it was widely shared. 

“By asking us for money and reducing us to our bank accounts, then it just kind of shows the lack of respect that is given to us as those student leaders and as individuals,” Mart said. “By asking us for this money, it feels as if we’re just being respected as dollar signs.” 

McDowell, who was in attendance at the workshop, originally shared the recording on her social media publicly with the consent of the person who recorded the excerpt of the speech. 

“Hamline administration has a notorious track record for having those conversations with students and then nothing ever coming of it,” McDowell said. “I am doing this for every single fellow student here at Hamline that has had negative experiences or interactions with administration…We need to move forward and hold this administration accountable if we want to have a safe, welcoming and overall healthy campus environment.” 

The President’s office sent out an email signed by Miller at 8:32 p.m. on Sept. 14 regarding the speech and the students’ concerns. In this email, Miller shared the goals of her speech which included discussing diversifying the campus, inclusivity and equity and increasing the amount of scholarship dollars. 

Currently, Hamline is in the “Take the Lead” comprehensive campaign that focuses on increasing this money for student scholarships. 

“As part of the conversation, I was asked to relate how students could help us reach our goals. A portion of my comments was selected and posted on social media, lacking context and creating controversy. These comments concerned student giving,” the email said. 

The email went on to outline the support for students, describing it to be “vitally important in today’s world” and a responsibility Hamline takes “very seriously.” 

The email also included mention of how Miller and members of her leadership team are “always happy to meet with students.” The importance of “respect,” “civility” and “facts” was included in describing having and grounding these conversations. 

“We must never stop talking with each other, even about difficult issues. I understand there is financial hardship among some members of our community. I recognize that discussing student giving has caused distress to some and emotional pain to others, which I truly regret. Still, I must be as open as I can be to students about the obligations of my position,” the email said. “My comments were not ‘demands,’ as claimed on social media. There has never been a requirement of any kind to donate to Hamline University. However, every institution of higher learning must raise funds in order to provide scholarship dollars for students.” 

As of publishing this article, the President’s Office did not make immediate comments to the Oracle.