EWU community members address ‘sanctuary’ petition and other concerns to Board of Trustees

Students%2C+staff+and+faculty+came+together+at+the+Board+of+Trustees+open+forum+to+express+political+and+social+concerns+on+campus

Colette-Janae Buck

Students, staff and faculty came together at the Board of Trustees open forum to express political and social concerns on campus

By Colette-Janae Buck, Copy Editor

Students, faculty, staff and community members were invited to voice their concerns regarding social and political issues that may affect the EWU campus during today’s EWU Board of Trustees Meeting of the Whole. The Board of Trustees allowed two hours for community and public comment.

Approximately 21 EWU community members took to the microphone to address the Board of Trustees, speaking about topics that ranged from more diversity, inclusion and cultural competency training for faculty and staff to advocating for EWU to release a stronger statement declaring in detail its commitment to protecting specific marginalized groups on campus.

Christina Seldon, president of the Black Student Union, called to attention EWU’s poor retention rate of both black students and faculty members, citing the university’s lack of hiring more diverse faculty and staff members as a part of her concern.

“The fact is whether your board members understand it or not how important representation is to the black community on campus,” said Seldon. “We need support and representation in all our departments, not just Africana Studies. It is not enough to just say we are an inclusive institution. What has Eastern done for the Black students?”

bot2Misrepresentation of the black community and black culture in classes was another concern Seldon addressed, echoing the expressed need for specific cultural competency training for staff and faculty.

“Our students still spend most of their classes still educating their peers due to the lack of training of our faculty and the lack of understanding of black culture in general,” said Seldon. “Bringing up oppression in the classroom to talk about topics that relate to class is not understanding black culture. We are more than oppressed people; if you can’t relate class topics to more than just our oppression, that shows right there that there is a lack of training and understanding in itself.”  

Students and faculty also advocated for the acceptance of a petition that calls for the immediate declaration of EWU as a sanctuary campus to protect undocumented students, staff and their families from deportation. Ann Le Bar, EWU associate professor of history and advocate for the petition said more than 500 people from the campus community have signed the petition in just 24 hours.  

“An article regarding the petition was posted on the Spokesman-Reviews website this morning and it already has over 300 comments, most of which are very negative and threatening, so this is an urgent issue,” Le Bar said.

Other students who participated in the public forum called to attention the lack of trained individuals in which marginalized students, staff and faculty can express their concerns to. Having staff members trained to help marginalised students find direction to resources depending on their situation and care for mental health issues that affect them were two other concerns brought to attention.

Nydia Martinez, associate professor for history and specifically Chicano history, said the need for persons understanding how to physiologically support individuals of color is in high demand on campus.

“Students, faculty and staff don’t know where to go,” Martinez said.

Sarahi Gutierrez, EWU junior, spoke from experience when addressing the Board, citing the increased need for an established safe space for undocumented students and other marginalized communities on campus.

“I haven’t had a safe place to go to or found any resources because I’m a DACA student,”  Gutierrez said. DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive action President Obama issued in 2014.

Nicholas Estrada and Paulina Crownhart, EWU students and self-proclaimed Republicans, expressed their concerns regarding the current atmosphere of EWU, stressing that they do not feel as though they are allowed to share their opinions out in the open despite the campus claiming to be inclusive.

“A lot of people have this idea that Trump supporters are racists and misogynistic but we are not,” Estrada said.

The Board of Trustees also allowed students, faculty, staff and other EWU community members to submit their concerns in writing.