Campus climate motivates student leaders to organize sit-in protest

Waverly Hart
News Editor

When Robert Dinkins, Jr. ’19 returned to campus after winter break, he was prepared to move in with a roommate whom he had never met.

However, when he swiped into his new room for the first time, he realized that his soon-to-be roommate was Drake Schwenke ’18’s best friend.

Because of the roommate’s association with Schwenke, Dinkins, who is black, wasn’t comfortable with the idea of living with him for a whole semester. Dinkins explained his unease, informing the roommate that he wouldn’t be moving in. Despite Dinkins’ courteous and respectful tone, the roommate immediately became defensive, unwilling to listen to Dinkins’ thoughts.

“That’s the point when I realized how bad everything had gotten,” Dinkins said. Later that day, he went to his friend’s room to complain about Schwenke’s Facebook posts, the trouble with his rooming conditions and how poorly the administration was handling the recent events.

“So, I just told my friends, you know, we should take over Galpin,” Dinkins said.

Motivated by his new idea, Robert went to the Special Collections section of the library to read all available information about the Galpin Hall takeover of 1989.

“When I was reading about it, it was … very shocking because it felt like the same climate that was going on in 1989 was still happening in 2017-18. And that’s really like very very pathetic,” Dinkins said.

In the 1989 protest, students only received two out of the six demands they asked for. To Dinkins, it felt as if no progress had been made.

“The demands that they were asking for, all the way in 1989 … nothing even happened from there, so it was, like, yeah, something definitely needs to change,” Dinkins said.

Both inspired by and frustrated with the ’89 protest, Dinkins met with Aaron Roberson ’18, the president of the Black Student Association (BSA) in Old Main Café to discuss their frustrations over the administration’s lack of action on recent events.

“I was just to the point where I was like, ‘Something concrete has to happen,’” Roberson said.

After their meeting, Roberson and Dinkins began reaching out to other student leaders on campus. Dinkins reached out to people like Colleen Gilfether ’18, Dylan Pederson ’18, Margie Sosa ’20 and many others.

“I think the main thing that motivated me was the importance of holding administration accountable and wanting to end the cycle of administration finding out an issue, issuing a statement to the community and then watching the issue fade out without anything really being done to handle the problem,” said Khorkie Tyus ’19, one of the organizers of the sit-in and vice-president of BSA.

On Sat. Jan. 27, about 16 student leaders gathered in the BSA lounge to start drafting a list of demands.

“We tried to look for the important stuff, the things you all have been constantly asking for, what are those things, let’s make sure that those get on the list of demands,” Dinkins said.

The list of demands consisted of six sections, which included issues of funds, competency training, Title IX, transparency, accountability, representation and amnesty for students who took part in the Call-in.

The organizers decided Tuesday at 10 p.m. to hold the Call-in the following day. At the BSA meeting that night, they asked for names and numbers of people in attendance. The leaders amassed almost 200 student numbers, despite the students not knowing any specific details.

That night, Roberson was up until 4 a.m., entering numbers, typing out the group message he planned to send later that morning and nervously speculating on what the result of the sit-in would be.

On Wed. Jan. 24, almost 200 students received Roberson’s original text detailing the proposed course of action. The text instructed students to leave their classrooms at 11:40 a.m. and head to the Kauke Arch, where they would then march to Galpin Hall and stay for an indefinite period of time. Unsurprisingly, the text was quickly forwarded from phone to phone, each student alerting their own sports team, sorority, club and friend groups.

At 11:40 a.m., some 500 students gathered at the Arch, waiting for further instruction. The organizers of the event could be seen wearing white T-shirts and handing out burlap swatches that read “Galpin Call-in 18.”

In true Wooster spirit, bagpipers led students from the Arch to the doors of Galpin Hall. Students began to flood the building, quickly filling all three levels. Once Galpin was full, about 100 more students marched to the basement of Lowry Center, where they sat in and outside of Residence Life offices. While the students were sitting in the hall, six student organizers and nine administrators met in the cramped Dean of Students office to go over the list of demands.

Throughout the course of the day, student organizers formally met with administrators five times to go through the list, deliberate, discuss and negotiate. Dylan Pederson ’18, one of the negotiators in the room, felt tremendous pressure during the Call-in.

“What went through my mind while I was there … awareness of the fact that, in that very moment, our voices represented the voices of the student body as a whole,” Pederson said. “Of all the frustrations that the student body has with the administration and how this college is managed, it was up to us to articulate those frustrations and force the administration to concede to our demands.”

A little before 10 p.m., the organizers and administrators came to a satisfactory agreement over the course of action the College would take to meet certain demands. Although many students are happy with the outcome of the sit-in, others had complaints about the exclusive nature of protest. While Dinkins tried to include students that would be representative of the student body, there were major communities that were left out.

“I just can’t fully be happy with the results simply because of the fact that a lot of people’s needs and concerns were entirely erased, left out,” Channler Twyman ’19 said. “It’s imperative that all movements, especially within activism, need to be more intersectional, and I just felt as though that was quite lacking.”

Even students involved in the organization of the sit-in shared Channler’s criticisms.

“I believe there could have been more inclusion of other groups and that has been something we have discussed for the future; the inclusion of more groups and fighting for others that might not have been represented in the initial list of demands,” Tyus said. Several student groups, such as International Students Association, Queer People Of Color and Queer Students Union, were completely shocked to hear about the Call-in on Wednesday morning.

“With this movement it feels as though there wasn’t a strong effort to include many voices of people who have been working hard since day one in our own ways to make this campus more accepting, more inclusive of intersectionality in regards to the way things are run,” Twyman said.

Although 17 out of the 21 demands were met, Roberson is skeptical of the College’s promise to follow through on the demands.

“I will be happy when some of the demands are met… when I get the call next year that my friends and family on this campus are in safe spaces where they can host events… that’s when I’ll start to be happy. Right now, I’m not mad,” Roberson stated.

Gilfether echoed Roberson’s doubt about the promise of the administration, and urged students to stay vigilant.

“The work isn’t done. Just because we’ve accomplished this on our campus doesn’t mean we’re done. There’s still going to be new issues that come up on our campus and in the world,” Gilfether stated. “We should enjoy what we’ve accomplished, because it’s huge, but there’s more work to be done. And we can’t sit back, we need to keep moving forward.”