Student petitions drive dialogue

Dialogue continues about racist incidents on campus.

Audra Grigus and Lydia Hansen, Senior Reporter and Editor in Chief

Two student-led petitions have been circulating campus in the week leading up to a community dialogue hosted by Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence, Dr. David Everett on Oct. 31.

One petition, started by senior Cristina Cuevas with the help of Tachianna Charpenter ‘19 and Riley Jay Davis ‘19, asks students to hold Hamline accountable in taking action against discrimination.

“So the dialogue was already supposed to happen, it was already planned, but I created my own context for what I wanted that dialogue to be, which then became really messy,” Cuevas said. “I didn’t realize how many people didn’t know about the situation, and didn’t know about the several incidents that have happened on campus.”

Cuevas encouraged current students and alumni who had reached out to her to come out to this event and voice their concerns to the administration. As of Nov. 3, the petition had 1,244 signatures from students and alumni.

“I think bringing that awareness and having alums sharing their stories of what happened when they were here is good for students to hear as well so that they don’t feel alone in these incidents,” Cuevas said.

Senior Oubeida Ouro-Akondo started the second petition, which she described as more of a pledge. It had 97 signatures as of Nov. 3.

“Mine is really about people taking self-accountability and empowering themselves to stand up in the action they want to see on campus,” Ouro-Akondo said.

Administrative leaders, including President Fayneese Miller, Dean of Student Patti Klein and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Marcela Kostihova were in attendance at the dialogue on Oct. 31.

“When I went in, I was kind of overwhelmed,” Cuevas said. “At first I was shocked that all of administration was there, President Miller was there, they had a camera set up in case things were overflowing, all of the coaches were there, and I was really confused.”

Kostihova mentioned during the dialogue that faculty would begin tackling “very specialized professional development.”

“So starting right now, all of the faculty individually are taking an assessment, a personalized assessment, which is going to give every faculty member a report to show them where they do have blind spots,” Kostihova said. “They’re going to get their own long individual report and suggestions for what they can do. We’re also going to get reports by department.”

Individualized training plans will be implemented after the assessment is completed in December. Kostihova hit many key points of concern when she spoke, including the video of four Hamline students that has been circulating on social media.

“Those of you who say our emails are not specific enough, the video is not the only thing that has happened,” Kostihova said. “Once we started talking about the video, we started finding out about other things that have happened in Anderson or that have happened in the dorms or that are happening in the classroom.”

A video of four white student athletes singing along to a song which included the n-word has become a focal point of discussion about racism on campus. Students have turned to the athletic department for a response and information about how they are taking action.

Athletic Director Jason Verdugo said he does not plan to bring in specific speakers or do one-time training as a response to this incident. He intends to build in diversity and inclusion as a point of emphasis across teams, along with the existing dialogues on other topics such as Title IX, mental health, nutrition and other topics.

“We want to have it be part of our athletic curriculum on an ongoing basis,” Verdugo said.

Verdugo mentioned he has been having dialogues with individual students of color around what they would like to do and how they would like to see the department respond.

“That’s the intention, to bring not only community, but also opportunities, to have ideas in thinking about what our department is going to look like going forward,” Verdugo said.

No further community dialogues have been scheduled as of Nov. 3, but faculty development presentations on “Deconstructing Safe Space” will be held on Nov. 5 and 19 and Dec. 3 and 17.