By Fleming Smith
The Leadership Coalition for Speak Up Sewanee recently released a list of demands with 10 items, calling upon the University to create a new general education requirement, increase transparency in the Board of Regents, and strengthen social diversity on campus, among other demands.
Formed during the movement by students to revoke Charlie Rose’s honorary degree, Speak Up Sewanee has been led by students Claire Brickson (C’18), Eliana Perozo (C’18), Student Government Association president Brandon Iracks-Edelin (C’18), Lala Hilizah (C’21), Cotie San (C’18), and co-director of the Bairnwick Women’s Center Sydney Peterson (C’18).
The Coalition began drafting their list of demands before the start of spring break, and more than 70 people attended a meeting to discuss the demands shortly before the break began. The list was then sent by e-mail on March 27; read the full list of demands below this article.
“We spoke up, now we demand action,” the Coalition told The Purple.
One of the demands details a request for transparency from the Board of Regents, which some students criticized during the controversy surrounding Rose’s honorary degree. The list requests that all student and faculty trustees be allowed to “sit in” on all Regent meetings and that the Regents publish regular reports to the community regarding their decisions.
The chair of the Board of Regents, Joe DeLozier (C’77), commented to The Purple, “I support better communication between Regents and all Trustees and pledged to the Trustees when I took office to always issue a report of our proceedings and have done so. I have attended Trustee meetings along with other Regents to foster that rapport. All of this will continue to be done.”
He continued, “I have reached out to many student groups and faculty during my tenure to seek guidance to improve this University. I will continue to do so. All of the upper level administrators issue reports to the Regents at each meeting.”
DeLozier said that he will propose to the Regents at their next meeting that student and faculty trustees issue similar quarterly reports, and he will ask the Regent “mission fulfillment committee” to “make further suggestions for improving student communication between meetings so that our time together may continue to foster progress.”
DeLozier concluded, “I respect the rights of an individual or group to civilly express their opinion. In the end, we are all on the same Mountain and the same team. I believe it is time to move forward listening to each other with renewed energy and action from students, faculty, staff, and town in order to make us a stronger community.”
Other items on the list of demands include requiring annual bystander intervention training, the construction of a University Student Commons, the hiring of a full-time person of color counselor and a crisis intervention counselor, more accessibility to crime statistics, an improved process for reporting hate crimes, and recommitting Sewanee to Episcopal directives.
The first demand on the Leadership Coalition’s list explains their idea for a new general education requirement involving the study of diverse groups of people so that students can better understand systems of privilege and their own identities. The list includes several possibilities of classes currently offered at Sewanee that could form a part of this new requirement.
“I plan to put the demand for a new gen ed requirement on the agenda for the April 6 faculty meeting. We will decide at that meeting how to approach the question, but I am guessing that it will be referred to the the Curriculum and Academic Policy Committee, the committee where such proposals are considered as a first step,” Dean of the College Terry Papillon told The Purple.
Papillon met with students and community members as the list was being drafted and heard their concerns as an observer at previous gatherings. “I think the students did a good job in their document in thinking about useful action items. Some of these are quite complicated and will require some education on both sides, for the administration to have a clearer sense of what the changes look like in the eyes of the students, for the student leadership group to get more information about where we are now on some of the issues,” he commented.
Papillon added, “I think it will be very productive to have students and administration working together on these. I certainly believe we can make progress on many.”
In his response to the list of demands, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell expressed concern regarding who the senders of the list “claim to represent.”
“I might begin by suggesting that ‘demands’ and things that will be ‘required’ do not strike me as the best way to initiate discussion of serious and in some cases quite complex questions,” McCardell told The Purple. “In some cases, discussions likely leading to action are already under way.”
One demand in the list calls for a rewrite of the current appeals process “to shift power from the Vice Chancellor to a diverse committee of experts.” The list identifies McCardell as possessing “full control” over the final outcomes of Honor Code and sexual assault cases, stating that therefore individuals “can cheat responsibility for their actions by virtue of their — or their parent’s — positioning in society.” The Coalition demands that professors and deans from diverse academic backgrounds should advise and have “equal affect” [sic] on such outcomes.
“First, we need to understand what if anything is wrong with the current process and whether there is a broad consensus within the community that it has in some way failed us,” McCardell said regarding this item of the list. “Certainly there needs to be some understanding of why the current practice is flawed. For example, going back at least to 2012, not a single appeal of a sexual misconduct violation has been upheld. How would changing the appeal process change such outcomes going forward?”
He added, “Furthermore, and this is critical, because violations of University policies can often involve litigation, participation in the process should (at least principally) include those who are ultimately responsible and accountable for how those policies are carried out. Finally, in many cases non-academic violations require as much confidentiality as can be managed in a small community. The more individuals involved in these often quite sensitive matters, the more confidentiality is put at risk.”
In regards to cases under the Honor Code, McCardell stated that only the student body could change the Code and its appeals process, and such a request would be better directed towards the Honor Council.
“This does not mean that I am not open to such changes. But it does mean that I, and the broader campus community, would need to be convinced that there is, first, a consensus that our current practices are in some way flawed (and it seems to me the standard there should be outcomes) and, second, that whatever might replace the current process possesses comparative advantages (which need to be articulated) over the status quo,” McCardell said.
In their demands, Speak Up Sewanee emphasized their concerns regarding injustices within the Sewanee community. “Moving forward, a diverse Leadership Coalition of students will work within an intersectional framework to give power back to the people,” the list read, and the students involved hope they are paving the way for a leadership group that will continue to advocate for students after its current members graduate.
Speak Up Sewanee’s List of Demands:
“Dear Vice Chancellor John McCardell, Chancellor Samuel Howard, Dean Neil Alexander, Provost Nancy Berner, Dean Terry Papillon, Dean Marichal Gentry, Dean Elizabeth Skomp, Chairman Joe Delozier and all other University Administrators:
On Saturday, February 17th, Vice Chancellor McCardell stated before a group of 187 students, faculty, and community members that he would stand by a Call To Action, and use his office to address the culture of complacency that often surrounds sexual assault on our campus. The following eleven demands seek to hold him, and the rest of our community, to that promise.
When the Board of Regents initially declined to rescind Charlie Rose’s honorary degree, the letter written and signed by Chair Joe Delozier and Vice Chancellor McCardell highlighted broader issues of power, sexual assault and harassment, as well as the role Sewanee, as a total institution, plays in the perpetuation of them. We intend these demands as solutions to some of the manifestations of these issues, visible and invisible, that we have seen, heard, and felt in our time at Sewanee.
Compiled by the Leadership Coalition using the platform Speak Up Sewanee, these demands recognize and build upon recommendations made by the Rethink Sewanee Task Force in 2013, as well as Obama-era calls for campus response reform. As full time students, we recognize that there are others, some currently employed by Sewanee, who are positioned due to their office and/or educational experience to offer additional recommendations for and solutions to the problems we highlight. We expect the administration to actively seek their opinions, expertise, and advice as these issues and the on-campus presentations of them evolve.
These demands seek to acknowledge intersectional initiatives to educate, advocate, and demand transparency around issues of power within our Administration and community. We believe these demands are impartial to the creation of a 21st century Sewanee, one that is stronger in its prioritization of survivors, and truer in its efforts to respect the dignity of every human being.
As stakeholding members of the Sewanee community, we call upon the University of the South to:
- Implement a new General Education requirement that critically examines the process of becoming a responsible member of one’s community. This century’s interconnected global society requires the ability to understand, appreciate, and function in cultures besides one’s own. Incorporating diversity and multiculturalism into the university curriculum will bring varied perspectives to the historical forefront, including those of traditionally underrepresented groups. Multiple Universities have already implemented this topic as fundamental to their educational curricula. These overlooked identities can 1 include intersecting experiences with race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, political belief, religious tradition, and/or ability. By studying the ideas, history, values, and creative expressions of diverse groups, students will gain the ability to think critically about systems of privilege, the role their own identities play within them, and gain appreciation for the differences and commonalities that define us as people.
These courses could include, but are not limited to:
- WMST 220 – The Politics of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights
- WMST 111 – Introduction to LGBT Studies
- IGDI 101 – Intergroup Dialogues
- POLs 209 – Immigration, Politics, and Identity
- AFST 150 – Introduction to African and African American Studies
- WGS 100 – Introduction to Women and Gender Studies
- WMST 251 – Black Masculinity in the United States
- WMST 340 – African American Women’s Short Stories
- AMST 351 – Toni Morrison
- POLS 161 – Multiculturalism and Equality
- POLS 210 – The Politics of Poverty and Inequality
- POLS 214 – Democracy, Dissent, and Revolution
- POLS 441 – Gender, Violence, and Power
- EDUC 226 – Teaching Children’s Literature
- ENST 304 – Community Development and Rural Appalachia
- SPAN 389 – U.S. Latino and Latina Literature and Culture
- POLS 315 – The Politics of Social Welfare Policy
- POLS 346 – Contemporary Social Movements
- ENGL 207 – Women’s Literature
- Require students to maintain a healthy level of social diversity, and student leaders to actively address issues that affect campus as a whole.
To continually expose students to diverse social environments, students involved in Greek life must attend two educational events per semester hosted by the University, academic departments, or student organizations that address critical issues affecting our campus and society as a whole. These events could include, but are not limited to: lectures, panels, workshops, movie screenings, and facilitated dialogues. The Activist Coalition, whose full responsibilities are outlined in demand seven, will maintain the power to dictate what events qualify as relevant. Failure to provide documentation of attending these events (in the form of a pledged sign-in sheet or Orgsync scan-in), should result in the suspension of the affiliated Greek organization’s social privileges.
To educate student leaders, all directors of themed housing, student trustees, presidents of fraternities and sororities, and heads of recognized organizations must attend the Posse Plus Retreat in order to have their events posted on Orgsync and to receive AFC funding. The PossePlus Retreat is a weekend of interactive and challenging workshops designed to tackle important national and campus issues. By creating a safe space for dialogue students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members who may not ordinarily interact with one another, PPR has become an important forum to engage in social, cultural and political issues.
3. Require annual Bystander Intervention training.
During orientation and before the rush season build upon existing programming like FEED to specifically addresses sexual health for all genders, including education on consent with input from the Women and Gender Studies Department, Title IX office, Health and Wellness Center, Bairnwick Women’s Center, and Volta. This should be rooted in the most recent literature on and study of sexuality and conducted by a qualified health professional. Attendance should be required and expected of all students on campus, not just those involved in Greek life.
4. Rewrite the current appeals process to shift power from the Vice Chancellor to a diverse committee of experts.
Following an honor code or sexual misconduct violation, the final step for an accused party is the appeals process. This option is the only available means of challenging a decision, and includes petitioning the Vice Chancellor for a reversal of the disciplinary charges.
When decisions made in lower-level proceedings can be quietly reversed by an individual, the integrity and worth of the entire process is compromised. Because the Vice Chancellor retains full control over the final outcome of honor code and sexual assault cases, individuals can cheat responsibility for their actions by virtue of their — or their parent’s — positioning in society. To address this inequality, we require that a group of professors and Deans from diverse academic backgrounds, including those with scholarship in sexual violence from the Women and Gender Studies and Psychology Departments, advise and maintain equal affect on the final outcome of sexual assault cases. The scholars must be full voting members of the committee to ensure that the Vice Chancellor’s directives do not outweigh their expert opinions. We expect that this committee would adhere to a zero-tolerance policy for those found guilty of and responsible for sexual assault, one that prevents violent offenders from ever being allowed to return to campus.
In honor code cases, these professors must be dedicated to furthering the spirit, rather than the letter, of the honor code. We wish to acknowledge the fundamental difference between a single botched citation and a paper willfully purchased online and passed off as one’s own. Currently, the punishment for these offences is the same. With this committee, we seek to end the practice of suspending of students, especially those from less privileged academic backgrounds, for minor offences made early in their Sewanee career.
This committee will function like the now-defunct Disciplinary Committee, and should be elected, following acceptance of their nomination, by the Faculty Senate.
5. Re-prioritize the undergraduate student body by building a University Student Commons.
It is our understanding that the University Commons, though long-called for in Sewanee, has been sidelined by efforts to move the School of Theology back to central campus. While this move may ultimately be beneficial for the community, we believe that prioritizing the needs of a few hundred seminarians over the growing undergraduate 5 student body is both nonsensical and detrimental to student enrollment. We expect that the University Commons will create a space for undergraduates and seminarians to study, exercise, and comfortably interact, furthering the well-being of both groups.
In 2013, the ReThink Sewanee Task Force recommended:
“reaching beyond the concept of a student center to that of a University Commons, a central gathering space for all in the Sewanee community that is open and accessible well beyond the normal hours and schedule of the academic calendar. Students repeatedly shared concerns that there were few spaces available for students to socialize beyond ‘dark, fraternity basements.’ In addition, we heard requests for space for groups of students not necessarily associated with a fraternity or sorority to ‘hang out.’ We do not advocate for segregated spaces, or spaces designated for students who do not join a fraternity/sorority – this kind of environment would further perpetuate a class-based system that is already a complaint among many students, faculty and staff with whom we met. We do believe a space that is open, available and attractive to all can assist in breaking down barriers that some believe exist and further the ‘sense of community’ that is the often discussed ideal of Sewanee.”
In addition to these apt recommendations, we require a full-time staff with training on handling sexual assault crisis to be present and available 24/7. These individuals will help shoulder the responsibilities currently borne by students living in the Women’s Center in filling the crucial role of first responder to sexual assault crises. Their presence will also ensure adherence to the first steps outlined in Sewanee’s sexual assault response flow chart, including medical treatment, counseling, education on reporting options and interim measures. The specific roles we wish to see filled are outlined in the demand below.
A. A full-time person of color counselor
B. and a crisis intervention counselor.
a. A counselor of color should be compensated for their emotional labor as people of color in a predominantly white space. The importance of a person of color in providing support for diverse students cannot be overstated.
b. According to the ReThink Sewanee Task Force:
“Though the University Counseling Center has counselors who work with students with emotional issues and academic disabilities, there is no counselor specifically trained to address sexual assault or identified as a crisis counselor…A Crisis Intervention Counselor would serve as a first-responder for students in crisis and in particular those who have experienced sexual assault. Currently, the South Tennessee Regional Health System hospital only has 2 doctors on staff that can administer rape kits and are on staff 24/7. Sewanee’s Wellness Center is only available until 4:30 PM for students. A full-time professional Crisis Intervention counselor would be able to educate and support students due to these insufficient resources. This would help to decrease the emergency responsibilities currently placed upon students who live in the Women’s Center.”
7. Make the Board of Regents transparent and accountable to the Sewanee Community.
Traditionally, senior administrators are invited to observe the proceedings of and provide their expertise in Regent meetings. Their input is an important factor in decision making about the current state and direction of the University. Beginning Advent 2018, we require that student and faculty trustees be allowed, like administrators, to sit in on all Regent meetings that discuss issues related to the College. Similarly, staff trustees should be admitted to meetings that affect staff, and theology trustees granted access to those about the SoT. This will allow Regents to garner diverse opinions, increase transparency and oversight, and contribute to the health of Trustee-Regent relations. It will be the responsibility of the Board of Regents to publish regular reports to the Sewanee community regarding the decisions made in these meetings, and the role of the student/staff/faculty trustees to ensure these reports are accurate.
In preparation for and education about their student trustee positions, elected students must meet at least monthly with the Leadership Coalition and student leaders from diverse organizations and social groups, including but not limited to: Black Student Union, Student Government Association, Inter-sorority/fraternity council, the Sewanee Purple, Sewanee Asian Organization, Divest Sewanee, the Community Engagement House, Queer & Ally House, Interfaith House, and Women’s Center. These meetings will be conducted under the direction of the Dean of the College, or an appropriately designated representative, and the Vice Chancellor is allowed and welcome to attend these meetings at any time.
8. Make campus security policy and crime statistics accessible and available.
A bi-annual report on campus crime must be made easily accessible for Sewanee students. This report must include incidents of sexual misconduct, hate crimes, transphobic, homophobic, sexist, classist, and racist behavior from both the student body, faculty and staff. These reports must accurately and effectively educate the Sewanee community on punishments/outcomes of sexual misconduct cases, and include a detailed section that clarifies the reporting process and options available to those who believe they may have been the victim of a crime on campus.
As many comprehensive recommendations for addressing sexual assault have made clear, a campus climate survey provides invaluable data on gender-based violence on campus. We expect that a survey be completed in a timely manner, one that gathers data on sexual assault, harassment, and hate crimes at the student, faculty, and staff levels.
9. Report hate crimes through the Sewanee Police Department in a process similar to that through which sexual misconduct is reported.
In efforts to destigmatize, legitimize, and increase reporting, we demand that conduct unbecoming of a member of the Sewanee community, including any form of racial, gendered, homophobic, transphobic, or classist discrimination, appear on a perpetrator’s record. In order for discriminatory language and behavior to be reported and seriously investigated, punitive measures must be instituted, ones that fit the level of disrespect that occurs. This disrespect may include, but is not limited to: verbal threats, physical assault, intimidation, harassment, and disorderly conduct.
10. Pass a resolution through the Board of Regents to recommit Sewanee, as an institution “under the sole and perpetual direction of the Protestant Episcopal Church”, to all policy passed at General Convention and by the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. Among other initiatives, the Episcopal Policy for Action document directs the Church and its members to:
- Create nonviolence training for personal and social change (GC’06)
- Urge all persons, along with public, governmental, and religious institutions, to discontinue the display of the Confederate Battle Flag (GC’15).
- Respond faithfully to the call to action of #BlackLivesMatter and stand in solidarity in valuing and protecting people of color who are discriminated against (EC 10/14).
- Declare unequivocally that the institution of slavery is a sin that continues to plague our common life in the Church and our culture, and resolve that The Episcopal Church acknowledge its history of participating in this sin (GC’06).
- Make all official documents and publications available in Spanish and French (GC’03).
- Recommit to the spirit of the New Sanctuary Movement so congregations can assist immigrant individuals, unaccompanied minors, families, and communities in the absence of comprehensive, humane immigration reform (GC’15).
- Engage the topic of divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment in clean energy (GC’15)
- Call upon congregations to make an active and ongoing response to problems of sexual or domestic violence in their communities (GC’00).
While Speak Up Sewanee and the creation of the Leadership Coalition was sparked by the Board of Regent’s refusal to revoke Charlie Rose’s honorary degree, a reversal of this decision is just one step towards acknowledging the injustices that persist within the Sewanee community. Speak Up Sewanee seeks to inspire open and honest dialogue in addressing these concerns. Moving forward, a diverse Leadership Coalition of students will work within an intersectional framework to give power back to the people. Today’s Leadership Coalition sets a foundation for the Leadership Coalition of 2018-19, and they will lead the way for the next.
Speak Up Sewanee, as allied with students, faculty, staff, and community members, will continue to demand transparency, advocate for marginalized identities and victims/survivors of sexual misconduct, question systems of power, and refuse to accept sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, and other discriminatory behavior and practices on our campus.
Speak Up Sewanee, as organized by the Leadership Coalition, will remain an active and persistent movement while these demands are being met and until our goal of improving the Sewanee community has been achieved.
With our voices,
The Leadership Coalition & the Sewanee community”