NOTE: The interviews for this article were conducted before the March 13 men’s lacrosse game at Sewanee.
On Monday, March 15, Mandy Moe Pwint Tu, president of the Order of the Gown, announced that the Order of the Gown’s resolution passed with 81 percent of the vote. The announcement occurred at the student gathering on the Quad to protest racist acts at a lacrosse game March 13. The Order of the Gown created the resolution in light of vandalism at Chen Hall that targeted Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety throughout the Advent semester. The initial resolution was proposed to the community on March 1, and the edited version after community feedback is dated March 5. The resolution includes consequences for Order members who violate the EQB Guide for Living in Community , especially in regard to physical and verbal harassment. Punishments could include revoked gown privileges or a delayed induction into the Order.
According to Tu, Brigety did not direct the Order to make a resolution, rather she described the resolution as the Order’s reaction to his Growing in Grace talk on February 7.
Tu said in reference to the consequences proposed in the resolution, “I think [they] will serve as preventative measures, so we have the gowns stand for more than just academic achievement. If we say, even just at the symbolic level, that we’re not condoning any form of harassment on campus against any person living or working on this Domain. Part of this is just knowing that there will be consequences for those actions that are not in line with EQB, or the Honor Code in a looser, non-plagiarism type [way] will serve as a preventative measure. People will think twice about verbally or physically harassing someone.”
The resolution references goals and conversations within the Dialogue across Differences program that informed their decision to take action against campus harassment.
In designing the dialogues for the Easter semester, Director of Dialogue across Difference Cassie Meyer said, “I wanted to be clear about the purpose of conversations. Were we talking about what happened at Chen Hall? Were we talking about incidents of racism at Sewanee? And [Vice-Chancellor Brigety] really pushed us and said ‘No, we’re talking about values. We’re talking about the values that guide us, the values that if we’re clear about, will prevent things like this from happening, and the values that will help us move forward into the future.’”
“He made clear what his vision was,” Meyer said, and the Dialogue across Difference program plays a part in working towards his vision.
However, Meyer notes the disparity between faculty and staff attendance to the dialogue held specifically for reflecting on EQB on February 16.
“I think it’s worth saying too that we have much smaller participation from the student body,” Meyer said, “… we only had about 62 students total participate from the college student body, we have good participation from the School of Theology. We only had 3.7 percent [of student attendance], I think that’s really interesting to ask why faculty and staff were really compelled and engaged to come join these conversations and students less so.”
Meyer describes the format of the dialogues as dividing members into small groups for a portion of the gathering and later reconvening with the whole group. Questions discussed in the dialogue include: When was a time you were proud or inspired by Sewanee? What values do these experiences reveal? When was a time you were ashamed, embarrassed, or disappointed of Sewanee? What values are lacking or what negative values do those experiences reveal?
Meyer said, “I think in the faculty and staff conversations, there was a lot of hopefulness for change. I think people are excited by the Vice-Chancellor’s vision, and I think this will take us to a new point in Sewanee’s future. I think from the student conversations, there was a real hope for change there. There was a real desire to be seen as leaders and people who can be a part of creating change on campus.”
Tu noted that implementing the resolution will be a multi-year project.
Tu said, “A lot of the results may not be the same. What we’re doing is committing to being more inclusive, and this is one of the ways we thought we could as an organization… as an organization tied to the institution, we’re taking a stand against harassment.”
When asked about why she thought Brigety chose to focus on EQB for this semester, Tu said, “I think EQB is one of those phrases and ideals that we keep coming back to, and it’s something that we think of constantly when we think about Sewanee. It’s one of two of our acronyms, YSR and EQB…I’m not quite sure his actual motivations for EQB, but I do think he’s inviting us to have that conversation about what it means and what it has meant. How we can use it in practice in a way that matters and is inclusive for everyone who is on campus and everyone who will come to campus.”