Warren Wilson Students Call Administration to Action Regarding Diversity, Academics

On Wednesday, April 9th at 12:20pm outside of Gladfelter, a group of students organized a demonstration and created a petition to address discrepancies between the college’s stated mission and the environment of the classroom.

The petition, which addresses President Steve Solnick and members of the Cabinet, presented two main concerns of the students: the training of faculty and staff members and the content of course materials in the curriculum.

The petition stated:

We need you to make mandatory training for faculty and staff regarding cultural competence and diversity. We need our faculty and staff to learn how to address oppression and tokenizing in the classroom. This in response to microaggressions in the classroom and community in general. It is an absolute necessity that all students feel safe in their learning and living environment. We ask that Dr. Gary Hawkins, Associate Dean of the Faculty, address this concern.

We need you to incorporate diverse course materials into the core curriculum, spanning across all disciplines. We ask that Dr. Paula Garett, Dean of Academic Affairs, address that classes have inclusive curriculum that reflect the diverse reality that is a liberal arts education.”

The petition also takes directly from the college’s mission statement, stating:

“These calls to action are in accordance with the college’s mission statement and core values which prioritize that we are “committed to cross cultural understanding and the common good” and “diversity: inclusivity, international and cross-cultural understanding”.

This statement was attached to the doors outside of Gladfelter and, earlier that morning, forwarded to members of faculty and staff who students identified as allies. This is the statement that was attached to petitions that students, faculty, and staff were asked to sign.
This statement was attached to the doors outside of Gladfelter and, earlier that morning, forwarded to members of faculty and staff who students identified as allies. This is the same statement that was attached to petitions that students, faculty, and staff were asked to sign.

When the demonstration began at 12:20pm, students began handing out statements explaining their presence, and others were passing around petitions to students asking for support. The majority of the students involved, however, were standing around a tree with their arms linked, chanting “This is what community looks like.”

Students demonstrate outside of Gladfelter, arms linked around a tree that was location of a past hate crime.
Students demonstrate outside of Gladfelter, arms linked around a tree that was location of a past hate crime.

The tree where the demonstration took place was the location of a past hate crime. Last semester, “KKK” had been carved into this tree. An attempt was made to remove the carving, although much of it was still visible due to concern that any further removal would harm the tree.

This is the tree after the hate crime took place, but before the demonstration.
This is the tree after the hate crime took place, but before the demonstration. Although an attempt was made to remove the letters, the letters were still visible.

While demonstrators encircled the tree and collected signatures on petitions, a few stood inside the circle and worked to remove the remaining bark the bore the reminder of the hate crime that took place. The demonstration ended at 1:00pm.

Student demonstrators removed any sign of the hate crime that had been left on the tree. President Steve Solnick can be seen in the background.
Student demonstrators removed any sign of the hate crime that had been left on the tree. President Steve Solnick can be seen in the background.
Students sign a petition asking the administration to address their concerns regarding diversity.
Students sign a petition asking the administration to address their concerns regarding diversity.

A debriefing concerning the demonstration and the petition will be held tonight, Wednesday April 9th at 5:00pm in the mierkes in Gladfelter.

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