by Samantha Berenschot-Bucciero
At the start of the semester, students had a lot to say about the changes to the enforcement of the alcohol policy, about the administration, and about the general state and climate of our school. The mounting frustrations brought about a Student Speakout ™, hosted by the Student Government Association, that felt productive and soothed most students. About 200 to 250 students attended. Some of the concerns included the new enforcement policies from the beginning of the year, and the gap between administration and students, as well as Title IX and Wellness Center concerns.
Despite expectations that the administration would do nothing to respond to the students’ concerns, the Dean of Students responded promptly with an email that respectfully laid out his plan of action to address these concerns. His email was excited, hopeful, and encouraging; however, almost immediately after this email, it seemed that student interest dwindled to almost nothing. Maybe six students made it to the presentation that Dean Brown hosted at 8 PM, during his time off, to address the uproar of the students who requested this data. Reportedly, only five came to the discussion about Title IX, hosted by the Title IX office. Other events hosted by students and/or administration are receiving less and less feedback, attention, and participation.
This lethargic participation and interest means that all our initial impetus was for naught. That “student speakout” just looks like a student complaining session because no one is actually using that energy to effect positive change. This lack of sustained energy diminishes us in the eyes of the administration. We proved to them that we are not serious about bridging the gap between administration and student body.
We have concerns about the Title IX program at our school. Michael Dunn has hosted focus groups to work with students on these concerns, and the turnout has been underwhelming to say the least. As students we agree that the new enforcement on policies regarding alcohol are damaging to our safety and community environment. There have been multiple student-lead focus groups hosted to draft our own policies with the review and collaboration of the administration. The one at the beginning of the semester, during all of the tension, was well-attended but the subsequent sessions had a terrible turnout.
It is one thing if you have no interest one way or the other, but to loudly vocalize your complaints and then let it all dwindle is foolish. The administration is making it easy to participate and we should at least be capable to put in an hour’s worth of energy a week towards such important matters. We are all familiar with the usual excuses to avoid being engaged socially and politically at this level. Understandably, the semesters get hard, life gets busy, and time is precious. The SGA Executive Board is composed of full-time students with other responsibilities, but they took the time to host a speakout for us to voice our concerns. The administration has other pressing matters to attend to but they are using their time to address those concerns the best that they can. All of us who attended focus groups or have worked on this project since the initial speakout are busy students and we cannot do it alone. I ask: what have you done since attending the speak out?
St. Mary’s students are renowned for being activists and people who speak up for what they believe in, but activism cannot stop at speaking up. Follow through! Speak up and then take action. Nothing is solved by tweets and open letters. Collaboration, time, and labor are the catalysts for true change. I feel that our school is a microcosm of the larger world that we live in. I have always felt that St. Mary’s was special place that churned out well-rounded individuals who are activists. But is St. Mary’s also producing complacency?
In my opinion, complacency is a dangerous social epidemic. We all have lots to say and have strong opinions, but when push comes to shove, we expect someone else to take care of it. I believe in the power of our community at St. Mary’s, we are just forgetting how to use it.
So, do you have a problem with the climate of our campus? Do you not like a policy that’s enforced on campus? Do you think we need more resources for the Wellness Center? Are the online trainings not working? Don’t roll your eyes at these problems and accept that nothing will change, do something! If you’re reading this and I have upset you in some way, ask yourself why that is. Is it because you’re putting your money where your mouth is and you are actually working to change things on campus? Then this article is not about you and I thank you for all of your efforts. Or are you upset because you are one of the people who are tweeting, complaining, and yelling and then doing nothing to change it?