Students Discuss Concerns with Board of Trustees

Samuel Boudreau

News Editor

 

Trigger Warning: Racist Actions 

With the gavel drawing their presentation on racial justice and equity to a close, Izzy Flores Perez ’22 had only one question left for The College of Wooster’s Board of Trustees at the biannual Student Development meeting . “Has there been any actions or good results that have come out strictly from these meetings?” Perez’s question was met with silence from the trustees. Again, Perez asked trustees, “has there been any action that has changed or anything that has changed directly from these meetings?” Again, silence. Perez turned to Anne Wilson ’73, board member and chair of the committee, “Do you remember any change that has happened directly from these meetings?” Wilson responded, “This is my first year to chair this committee, so I am sorry. I have sat in on a couple meetings, and, I will say, just be aware of all the changes that have emerged from these meetings.” Perez pressed on, “but can i get one example?”

With murmurs of disapproval emerging from the student body at the meeting, Wilson answered, “I think the awareness.” Wilson continued, “can I give you an example of a change? I cannot. These issues come up and we have talked about them as a board. I have only been on the board for three years and we hear and try to have conversations.” During Perez and Wilson’s exchange, students had to wake up a trustee who fell asleep. To answer Perez’s question, Jim DeRose ’72, trustee since 2012, said that seven years ago, trustees helped increase the numbers of counselors at the College. “That said, we still recognize the needs are still not being fully met,”DeRose said, “but that is an example where students came to us, said ‘we have a crisis,’ and we were able to respond.” 

On Oct. 29, the Student Development Committee held its biannual meeting in Lean Lecture room, Wishart Hall. The committee is not a policy-making committee, but it provides students with an opportunity to talk directly to the College’s trustees. After the meeting, the committee meets with President Bolton and the rest of the board to relay students’ concerns and find solutions. “Our committee is here today to listen,” Wilson said, “to hear what you all have to tell us.” 

The meeting kicked off with Atticus Moats ’22, president of the College’s First Responders. Motes detailed the expanding pre-hospital training at Wooster, the formation of an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class at Wooster and health and wellness outreach with the College’s Wellness Center. Moats also focused on how the College and first responders work to help students with medical debt, such as transporting students to the local hospital and bringing experienced EMTs on campus and starting an EMT program on campus. Moats said First Responders also looks to continue community outreach missions, including WooCares on Dec. 9, an event hosted in partnership with the American Red Cross that holds a blood drive, CPR training, QPR training and suicide prevention training. 

After Moats, Savannah Sima ’23, on behalf of First Generation Student Organization, called for renovations and innovations to fix structural problems in campus housing. “With dorms and houses filled with bats, mold, lead paint, sewage leaks and bug infestations,” Sima said, “we desperately need these innovative solutions.” From the beginning of the fall semester to Sept. 14, campus safety caught 40 bats in residence halls and campus housing. Additionally, an unofficial dust sample, conducted by Lauren Kreeger ’23, found “abnormal amounts of lead” in the College’s McDavitt House. As a resident assistant in Bissman Hall, Sima said that overpopulated living spaces paired with structural problems create unlivable conditions for students. “This disproportionate experience routinely falls upon FGLI students who already have to reconcile with many barriers in getting their college degrees,” Sima said. 

After Sima and Moats’ presentations, Mazvita Chikom ’22 and Sinqobile Nyasha Tagwireyi ’22 presented on behalf of the African Student Union, specifically regarding the publication of The Black Manifesto on Oct. 18. “Following the publication of the Black Manifesto, the African Student Union has used this momentum to begin working with the administration to make The College of Wooster truly inclusive and equitable,” Chikom said. First, Tagwireyi and Chikom proposed the increase of accessibility to financial opportunities for Black international students. They also proposed that the College employ someone who studies the economic situations of the countries represented at The College of Wooster. “We ask for the diversity of staff in financial aid and the business office, because we think that is where some of not being in touch with our situation comes from, just because of the shared lived-experiences,” Tagwireyi said. Chikom and Tagwireyi also asked the College’s Financial Aid department to conduct extensive research on corporations and organizations that offer scholarship programs or fellowships for students, especially students who are international and do not have U.S. citizenship. Chikom and Tagwireyi also asked for transparency on financial aid opportunities, such as the College’s international student scholarship and called for a diversification initiative across all academic departments at the College. “A lot of the time, it seems as if the institution mainly hires Black faculty for only the Africana department and very few departments outside,” said Chikom. “I am now a senior, and I have only been taught by one Black faculty member.” 

Following the African Student Union, the Posse Scholars called for racial justice and equity at the College. While Brisa Rivas ’25, Elliot Sommar ’25 and Kayla Robinson ’25 were set to speak on behalf of the scholars, Tiffani Grayes ’25 spoke in place of Rivas, as Rivas transferred from the College due to a hate crime suffered on Beall Ave. Robinson said that a group of white people drove next to Rivas on Beall Avenue and made gun motions at her. Rivas reported the event during her first week and did not hear back from the College until two months later regarding the incident. “We have faced a multitude of discrepancies, such as a lack of support, concern for safety and the fear of inequitable aid on campus in comparison to our advantaged counterparts,” Grayes said. Robinson, Sommar and Grayes proposed three solutions: provide more funding for Black students, invest in diverse faculty and wellness, and invest in ongoing education and training for campus safety. 

Teresa Ascencio ’23 spoke on behalf of the BIPOC Performing Arts Alliance. Ascencio said that she and the alliance were deeply disappointed with the administration’s response to the Black manifesto “we as an organization and members of the campus community were appalled by the invasive and disingenuous responses and frankly insulting conduct shown to us by the highest bracket of power at this institution,” Ascencio said. Ascencio also detailed the personal challenges they have faced at the College as a BIPOC and queer student, including harassment on Beall Avenue, discrimination in class and tokenization as a student of color. “We are tired of having to create manifestos, hold protests, speak at campus-wide town halls and be burdened with having to constantly relieve trauma, just because the school won’t make distinct and systematic changes for the betterment of our future.” Ascencio called for hiring more BIPOC faculty and staff, making nonbias training frequent and mandatory for all, rewarding antiracist behavior, reprimanding discriminatory behavior, hosting more BIPOC speakers for educational and cultural purposes, working with the town of Wooster to make Beall Avenue a safer place to walk at night for BIPOC students, providing equitable pay for BIPOC professors, and using funding for the improvement of BIPOC spaces on campus. “If we are to pride ourselves on being diverse and inclusive, then we need to actually provide basic resources for students that allow our school to [boast] acclaimed status,” they said.

Next up, Cory Horgan ’23 and Taylor Lynch ’24 spoke on behalf of Greenhouse Club, the main body of sustainability and environmental change on campus. Their presentation focused on waste and sustainability in Campus Dining. “Simply put, Campus Dining is not sustainable,” Lynch said. During the 2020 fall semester, the College transitioned to disposable cups, plates and silverware to meet COVID-19 guidelines. “Now that campus facilities’ operations return to normal,” said Lynch, “it is important to return and improve upon the sustainable practices and options we have on campus,” such as returning to reusable dining utensils. Returning to these practices, however, is a challenge, as Campus Dining faces staffing shortages and “inadequate technology, such as dishwashers and other appliances in dining.” 

Horgan brought the trustees’ attention to the College’s five-year sustainability plan, established in 2019, which aimed to increase environmental sustainability at the College. In the plan, President Sarah Bolton listed five “major recommendations for immediate implementation,” which included: to hire a sustainability coordinator, form a renewable energy exploratory committee, conduct an external energy audit and two more actions. “Absolutely none of these have been completed,” said Horgan. “We have actually regressed as a campus in sustainability.”

The meeting closed with updates from Scot Council. Emmy Todd ’22, President of Scot Council, attended the meeting and every student development meeting while at Wooster. “Every year, I think that the issues will be pushed ahead by the Board of Trustees, pushed ahead by the administration,” Todd said, “and every year, I am disappointed that I come back here and see the same issues talked about again and again.”