University changing administrative response is poor example to students


Recently, all students received emails from Dr. Eric Grospitch, new Vice President of Student Life, and Dr. Farley, both regarding the results of the election. They each encouraged an inclusive, open, tolerant dialog to take place across campus. Interestingly, while calling for these stimulating exchanges, the email simultaneously calls on students to, in a sense, prevent these conversations with particularly intolerant classmates.

Earlier in the semester, a well-meaning fraternity adopted a version of Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, in their recruitment merchandise. Some students on campus felt the allusion to the president-elect’s tagline was offensive and isolating; much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric was racially charged or otherwise objectively inappropriate, causing concerned students to feel his campaign’s values were subsequently being endorsed by the fraternity as they adopted the slogan. The response by Grospitch to the students? He explained the complications of the first amendment, claiming the university could not formally oppose the use of the slogan regardless of how it made the anxious students feel. The students that reported the slogan were afraid that our campus would experience the same turmoil developing on other university campuses, yet their reasoning fell on deaf ears. Initially, Dr. Grospitch seemed indifferent and explained the apathy with a law and order approach, as he felt the issue was a consequence of the first amendment. In his latest email, the students’ fears were validated and the administration’s response changed. They managed to take a 180-degree turn in how they are responding to students’ worries.

Additionally, his email creates the impression that the university is going above and beyond in their responses to any reported harassment. This is misleading to students. The university would be violating Title IX orders if they were to dismiss the complaints, risking federal funds being cut. If students really want their university to stand out in how they handle these situations, the administration needs to find balance and consistency.

We are taught to be critical thinkers. Higher education is unique and valuable in the experiences it provides to be uncomfortable in a relatively stable environment; pushing students out of their programmed boundaries and into new ways of thinking, universities are crucial in allowing for tremendously controversial topics to be explored in a respectful way. Taking this into consideration, it seems contradictory of the administration to change response policies based on results of the election.