Letter of demands seeks to create sanctuary against hate

Charles Beers, Assistant News Editor

Students, faculty, and staff met in the Olin Science lecture hall on Nov. 29 to follow-up with a letter about the current campus climate that circulated via Google Docs before Thanksgiving break. The letter, addressed to University President John Bravman and Provost Barbara Altmann, included a list of actions and demands for administration to discuss racism, misogyny, homophobia, and the mistreatment of minority groups and the environment. At the time of publication, 334 signatures had been accrued from staff, students, and faculty members.

The letter requested that administration “publicly state that the University will not tolerate the hate elicited and legitimized by the recent election cycle.”

The letter was cited as a response to Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election and the fear his campaign has generated toward minority groups in America. As the letter stated, “The ideologies validated by this election and Trump’s campaign make members of our community feel unsafe both on and off campus.”

The letter project was spearheaded by a five-person student team: Sam Jacobson ’17, Mona Mohammed, Huntley Hughes, Emma Downey ’18, and Anushikha Sharma ’18. With the letter, the team hopes to make the University a sanctuary for three important aspects of the school community, as dictated by their letter: “marginalized community members,” “open dialogue of political discussion and practice regardless of ideology,” and “environmental progressivism.”

The team leaders began the meeting by sharing their progress with the letter, which was echoed by President Bravman in an email to The Bucknellian. “We enthusiastically support the effort to build a stronger, more inclusive community,” Bravman said. “We also indicated our belief that we must do so as partners, and that starting from a position of demands and ultimatums was not helpful.” President Bravman expressed his interest in meeting with the group in person to “discuss the issues raised in the letter.”

After sharing this response, the signatories in attendance were divided up into three groups based on the three aforementioned goals. The faculty and students engaged in discussion, each group deciding on one major initiative to present to Bravman and Altmann at the upcoming meeting.

The first group, focused on environmental progressivism, is asking the University to invest in cleaner energy options and create a plan to achieve carbon neutrality.

The second group of students discussed ways to help marginalized students and agreed to work to secure a respectable space for Muslim students, as well as hire a tenured Islamic studies professor who would help support the faith on campus.

The third and final group discussed ways to combat sexual harassment on campus. They will propose a method of overhauling the affinity housing program and interacting with fraternities on campus.

Once the plans were proposed and recorded, additional students in attendance were added to the final delegation who will meet with University officials on Dec. 2.

The student leaders of the initiative are enthusiastic about the letter’s response.

“We are very pleased with the number of signatories who responded to the letter. We’re also very glad that both President Bravman and Provost Altmann seem amenable and willing to work with us,” Hughes said.

Not all students felt positively toward the letter. Kat Pardoe ’18 explained her position as, “I don’t oppose the letter because of its content, I actually agree with most of the points it raises. I feel that the way the letter approaches these issues is the problem… Dialogue, understanding, and negotiation are key. I believe making demands and threats should be reserved as a last resort to facilitating change, if communication, cooperation and negotiation fail.”

The meeting on Friday with Bravman and Altmann will address the three objectives identified during the Nov. 29 meeting. “We look forward to continuing a substantive and sustained dialogue around these and related issues,” said Bravman, “and to ultimately — together — continuing to forge a better Bucknell for all.”

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