Students and Iowa State administrators gathered together to discuss the Students Against Racism demands on Thursday in the Sun Room in the Memorial Union.
These students and administrators introduced themselves under the moderation of Araceli Lopez-Valdivia, senior is political science.
The students on the panel were Alexa Rodriguez, sophomore in political science; Liliana Delgado, junior in mathematics; Trinity Dearborn, senior in women’s and gender studies; Hugo Perez, junior in liberal studies; Brian Gonzalez, senior in finance; Kortni Lewis, junior in animal science, and Dhruv Raturi, a graduate student in materials science and engineering. Another organizer who was not apart of the panel, but a part of the organizer team is Javier Miranda, an Iowa State alumn.
The administrators who were a part of the forum were Wendy Wintersteen, president of the university; Martino Harmon, senior vice president for student affairs; Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost; Michael Norton, university counsel; Reginald Stewart, vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Michael Newton, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police.
Afterwards, the student organizers on the panel were instructed to acknowledge the list of demands initially made at the Students Against Racism protest and also at Campus Conversations. This list consisted of:
- Expel: the students who chalked neo-Nazi slogans, the students who vandalized Bean House in Geoffroy Hall, students in the future who threaten or use neo-Nazi language violating the zero-tolerance policy.
- Shut down: the Students for Trump club that attached neo-Nazi slogans to their political writings as continued harassment and interference in the academic life of hundreds of students.
- Fire: the Student Government advisor who wore blackface and future staff engaging in racist or anti-Semitic behavior.
- Add: a zero-tolerance to attacks against marginalized communities, a student advisory board to the campus offices in charge of handling discrimination that is run by students of color, a zero-tolerance to hate speech includes chalking in which the university should be responsible for getting rid of hate speech i.e power washing, public statement by ISU explicitly condemning white supremacy, mandatory extensive inclusivity and diversity training provided by professionals to all faculty and staff, Iowa State Police Department extends its current bias trainings to all officers not just at onboarding or those servings on the engagement and inclusion team, future emails regarding attacks on marginalized communities should be more direct and should clearly state the incidents that the email addresses and make it very clear that we do not tolerate this on our campus and Iowa State Administration needs to hold a meeting open to all students to check back about the demands no later than 2 weeks from Wednesday Oct. 30th.
After that the administrators were instructed to respond to each demand and address the demands that the students had listed, in which the Iowa State administration then presented their list of compliances to address the demands that the student organizers had made. This list consisted of:
- Campus leaders - president, senior vice presidents, deans, and other senior leaders - will take cultural competency and cultural humility training before the start of the spring semester.
- Starting spring semester 2020, the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching will conduct annual training for faculty in each academic department on the importance of, and approaches to, creating an inclusive classroom environment.
- Starting immediately, all search committees for faculty and staff in academic affairs, and senior administrative positions, will receive diversity, equity and inclusion training.
- All college promotion and tenure committees will receive diversity, equity and inclusion training, beginning with the next cycle.
- Beginning spring semester 2020, students who live in university housing will be required to take annual online diversity, equity and inclusion training.
- As part of new student onboarding, the university is piloting a one-credit online orientation course that includes diversity, equity and inclusion topics, as well as other topics related to first-year student success.
- The Department of Residence will work with IRHA, Student Government and key campus departments to explore changes to greatly reduce or eliminate acts of vandalism in the halls.
- The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Equal Opportunity will work with students to create a student advisory council on issues related to harassment and discrimination. This will be in addition to the current student advisory boards that exist for the Iowa State Police Department and Division of Student Affairs. Students are also included on the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Council.
- The Campus Climate Response Team is being renamed the Campus Climate Reporting System (CCRS) to better reflect its purpose and the communication process is being reviewed for improvement.
- Iowa State Police will continue and expand annual bias trainings for all officers and will be extending it to all Department of Public Safety staff. In addition, racial intelligence training will be held for al DPS supervisors in December and all officers in the spring.
One of the main points the student organizers made during the time when they were asking questions was the administration's lack of providing a zero-tolerance policy solution.
“We can’t make consistent rules that we apply to everybody,” Norton said. “So if we have a vandalism policy, zero-tolerance for vandalism. That means any act of vandalism, no matter the underlying motive, will be treated the same. If our zero-tolerance policy was that anyone who commits vandalism is automatically expelled from school, then if someone puts their first through the wall, they’re expelled, and if someone makes a racist comment and vandalizes the wall, they’re expelled. We cannot expel the person who makes the racist comment and not the person who put a hole in the wall. And we have not taken the position that every act of vandalism ends in expulsion.”
Dearborn, in reference to the concept of the zero-tolerance policy, expressed their distaste for the comparison of their marginalized identity with vandalism. In which Rodriguez seconded the point by reading the code of conduct for discrimination at Iowa State, concluding that a zero-tolerance policy seems to have the opportunity to be put into play.
Harmon said he tried to provide a compliance to the zero-tolerance disagreement by implementing the idea of the Department of Residence increasing consequences regarding vandalism at Iowa State.
However, students still encouraged the idea of a zero-tolerance policy and its importance at Iowa State. Raturi said there should be a compensation from the administration in instances of “racist” events happening.
“You only act when we initiate action,” Raturi said. “So moving forward, we need a change in which you respond. Would you be willing to, when racist and anti-Semetic chalking/vandalism is made, that we will be reassured by you all personally.”
Gonzalez said he was confused why it was okay for students to deface student property and attack his identity, but have no consequences besides just paying for the damages. Delgado also showed concern as to why she was not a part of the process of knowing about punishments that were going on and was concerned for her safety.
Other topics that were covered were whether assessments or evaluations would follow the diversity and inclusion classes that will be required by faculty and staff, as well as the action that would be taken following these trainings so that students know the progress being made.
After identifying these discrepancies between the demands and compliances, the student organizers also called for an apology from the administration for the hardships they’ve endured due to the climate on campus.
“I apologize to any student who has had a terrible experience because of racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, gender discrimination, whatever the experience it has been, I apologize on the behalf of Iowa State University,” Wintersteen said. “What we have done, in meeting tonight to present the actions that were committed to, and what we will implement, I have to follow up that we cannot break the law when it comes to the first amendment, so I cannot do what you’re asking.”
The forum was then opened up to the public, so students or faculty could acknowledge the panel with their thoughts.
Students and faculty brought up the code of conduct and policies at Iowa State that would work well with a zero-tolerance policy, as well as their feelings regarding the statements that had taken place during the discussion.
Student organizers called for another meeting with the administrators in the following weeks. The administration has yet to confirm or deny a second meeting, and said they will be in touch with the student organizers.