This year’s election has sparked a variety of reactions from students across campus, from peaceful protests of the results to open support for the new president. One group of students on campus expressed their right to engage in political activism by drafting a letter of demands addressed to the University administration and asking for signatures of support from their peers in November 2016.
The group calls themselves the Bucknell Alternative Delegation (B.A.D.), and they are interested in combating social issues on campus, such as sexual assault, marginalized communities, and climate change.
On Jan. 26, B.A.D. invited the student body to the LC Forum to discuss campus activism and the implications of their demand letter. One by one, the founders of B.A.D. stood and presented the demands to both their peers and the members of the University administration in attendance.
Each student leader focused on one of the major demands of the letter. Sam Jacobson ’17 gave the introduction to the letter, Shirah Moffatt-Darko ’18 spoke about inclusion within the University, Anushikha Sharma ’18 and Mona Mohammed spoke about marginalized communities, Jorden Sneed ’17 spoke about sexual assault, and Sara Palombo ’17 spoke about the environment.
The speakers opened up about events in their lives and their personal experiences on campus relating to the issues of discrimination and marginalized communities. They shared that their motive is to ultimately improve the school that they love and call home, and simply make it a safer, more inclusive environment for everyone.
University President John Bravman sat in the front row of the forum and witnessed firsthand the product of the student activists’ mission for change. University officials were asked to attend the forum as a listening body, rather than active participants, which created a stalemate when a question was posed directly to Bravman. After an extended pause, Bravman explained his silence and redirected the question to the panel.
A chronological timeline for change was presented at the forum displaying deadlines for the demands. These deadlines begin as early as January 2017, when B.A.D. expects the University to publicly affirm its status as a sanctuary campus, to August 2030, when B.A.D. expects the University to reach carbon neutrality.
The panelists spoke to the varying priorities of the concerns, and the staggered expectations for implementation.
“The environment needs to be protected now; five or 10 years down the line will be too late. Sexual assault numbers on this campus are staggering and yet we find that our programs are little effective in the face of the patriarchal structures that exist on this campus,” Sharma said. “We pride our increasing diversity, but we’re doing little to sustain them.”
In hopes of addressing the issue of marginalized communities, B.A.D. has requested that the University allocate a budget increase for each of the Intercultural Equity & Advocacy (IEA) offices that accurately reflect current financial needs assessed on past expense reports by March 2017.
“There is little transparency of budget and resource allocation. A budget is a moral document—we put our money in areas that we value. We need to start valuing our minority students, our women, our environment,” Sharma said.
Other demands, including those pertaining to the topic of sexual assault, include hiring a director of the Women’s Resource Center by August 2017, delivering a yearly report on sexual assault at the University to the community beginning in the academic year 2017-2018, and establishing a student-faculty oversight board for Public Safety by August 2017. Some of the demands are already outdated or redundant; Kelsey Hicks was hired as a new director of the Women’s Resource Center in early January.
Professor of Management Tammy Hiller said she felt immensely proud of the University students for living out the mission statement and hallmark of the liberal arts education, “to think critically about the community you are in and be a good citizen of that community by working for structural changes that promote a more supportive and nurturing community for everyone.”
“I am supporting the letter because I’m thrilled to see that students are taking action. I think that oftentimes students see things where they believe our own Bucknell community can be more just,” Hiller said.
Hiller explained that someone who is interested in signing the letter, but is apprehensive about committing to every one of the listed demands, does not necessarily have to agree with every detail to support the movement.
“At the end of the day, the issues these students are concerned about are incredibly valid, and the end goals are wonderful,” Hiller said.