This piece was written for “The Towerlight” at Towson University as a Staff Writer. Check out this, and other stories from The Towerlight here:
Towson’s Student Government Association and the Division of Student Affairs held a “Be Heard” town hall-style meeting Sept. 21 in West Village to discuss progress on the demands from the November 2015 #OccupyTowson sit-in.
“I think it’s important to have continued dialogue.” SGA President Taylor James said. “Some things do move slow, but issues that students and community members are having do change pretty rapidly.”
During the sit-in last year, a group of black students created a list of demands demonstrating concerns they had regarding their safety and inclusiveness on campus.
The students and then-Interim President Timothy Chandler and a group of administrators revised the list several times, until they agreed on a completed list that Chandler signed to affirm his intent to actively address the demands.
The night before the sit-in, the protesting students staged an “SGA Takeover,” which culminated when then-SGA President Kurt Anderson signed the document.
At Wednesday’s town hall, Chandler, now provost, went through each of the 12 demands one by one with concerned students, faculty and staff members to update progress on what has been done, what is currently in progress and what has yet to be done.
Attendees were encouraged to give their ideas, input and feedback to have their voices heard and to start a conversation about inclusiveness.
According to Chandler, there is still a lot that needs to be done, and progress on the demands will continue to be an ongoing effort.
“While we completed what we set out to complete, that doesn’t mean to say we don’t see the need for a lot of other things on top of this,” Chandler said. “So please don’t think just because we’ve checked the box, that’s done… I think we’ve met the obligations we all took on the best we can, but there’s still a lot that we still need to do.”
Attendees voiced various concerns during the meeting, including having fair hiring search committees and tenure communities, having a diversity chair on Greek organizations to promote diversity, how the university should respond when there is a tragedy in a minority group’s community and how mental health needs to be treated on the same level as physical health.
Moriarty said that the administration is proud of the work that has already happened over the summer.
“Some of these will take longer than others but I think we’re feeling really proud of the work that happened this summer that included the students’ voice in some policy decisions, and some policy clarifications,” Moriarty said.
The Diversity Initiatives Progress Report is available through Towson’s website.
The website tracks the progress of the list of demands; however, Chandler said some of the demands on the list will never truly be complete.
“They may say they’re completed, but we see this as an ongoing effort,” Chandler said. “We are nowhere near completed. In fact, if we ever think we’re completed, we’re fooling ourselves.”
The Be Heard meetings will be monthly. James said that she will communicate with Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs for Diversity Santiago Solis to create a more interactive program so that more students will come to future meetings.
“I really want this this to be available for students who are having concerns…to be able to voice them to the appropriate people, and…to give the opportunity for updates and different things that are going on,” James said. “I think it’s important to keep [the meetings] consistent so students know if they need to talk to someone about something, they know they can do it.”