An SGA-hosted forum, which allowed FSU students to address their comments, concerns and opinions directly to a panel of administrators at FSU, focused mainly on fears stemming from the election results.
The forum was held in North Hall’s Commons Room on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.
The panel consisted of President F. Javier Cevallos, Campus Police Chief Brad Medeiros, Executive Vice President, Dale Hamel, Director of Residence Life Glenn Cochran, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sean Huddleston, Chief of Staff and General Counsel Rita Colucci, Provost and Vice President Linda Vaden-Goad, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Development Lorretta Holloway, Director of Dining Services Ralph Eddy and Residence Director Jay Hurtubise.
One student said when she first heard about the Unity Walk, she thought it was “a really great idea.”
However, she said, “what was said at the unity walk is where the discretion comes from. If you are promoting a Unity Walk you should not say bad things about Trump or his supporters.”
She said, “Because of this, I didn’t feel comfortable being at the Unity Walk and I ended up walking right away from it. I was uncomfortable due to the things I heard, and things I saw on social media. Again, I thought the idea behind the walk was great, however, it was conducted poorly.”
She added, “It felt like if the election turned out differently, the Unity Walk would not have happened and that was a huge factor for a lot of people.”
Another student said, “I was unsure what to think of the unity walk at first, but then I heard it was about coming together to support and love one other, so I thought that’s cool. I’m glad my University is playing part in bringing people together.”
They added, “As someone in a minority group I was happy to attend but when I got there, there was a lot of political rhetoric being thrown around and I also belong to a political minority, so I was somewhat offended by what I was hearing. I think when educators openly compare the president elect to a Hitler-like figure, it turns people off and turns them away from a walk that was supposed to unify.”
Junior Jackson Stevens said because the “rhetoric” of Trump’s campaign “marginalized people of color, women, Muslims and all these other groups, students genuinely felt unsafe on campus and unsafe in public. That’s why we took the initiative so fast. We don’t want these students to walk around like that.”
He added, “I don’t know if I’m just speaking for myself but it felt eerie on campus. Everyone felt uncomfortable on campus and because of this, we needed that walk.”
Cevallos said it’s time for the campus to come together and continue to promote a welcoming environment for all.
“We have to respect all points of view – we must respect each other and learn to live with other people’s opinions,” he added.
“My concern is with the fringe cases of hate that have been popping up around the country. We must not forget that 99.9 percent of Republicans are hard-working people who are not racists or hateful members of society. Likewise, 99.9 percent of Democrats are that way too. We must continue to encourage positive discourse,” he said.
Colucci said, “This election has made me change my approach to how I talk about politics. In the past, I wouldn’t say much, but recently, I forced myself to have a conversation with my neighbor and look at things from another angle. We can never go wrong by a having a conversation.”
Holloway said, “My daughter had asked me after the election, ‘Where is the America you told me to believe in?’
“‘You’re that America,’ I said. “It’s a about creating the house you’re living in, and we must promote diversity.
“If you want to be the only black student in the country music club, then go for it. Put yourself out there and take a stand. Be the change,” she added.
Huddleston said FSU members must have a “holistic view on campus diversity” and suggested that diversity “can’t be owned.” Instead it is an ideal that the FSU community must “feel everywhere.”
Huddleston said it was an “incredible feat” that the Unity Walk and Hope In Action rally were organized in under 24 hours.
Cevallos referred to the event as a “very good moment,” but reminded the audience that while “we are all passionate about our political opinions and beliefs, the challenge before us is making sure we respect one another’s point of view and provide everyone with the opportunity to be heard.”
Vaden-Goad said, “That’s what’s great about this campus. You have plenty of voice here. And if you want to see change, you can be an active part in accomplishing that change.”
Students also asked general questions about FSU.
SGA Senator Molly Fennessey asked if there were plans to add an additional crosswalk by the Salem End Parking Lot that is closer to Linsley Hall. This crosswalk would be an addition to the one that is located closer to West Hall.
Hamel said the engineers and planners who mapped out the original lot plan said adding a crosswalk on the curved road was dangerous, which is why it wasn’t included initially.
However, adding a crossing or pedestrian warning sign may be a viable option.
Cevallos encouraged students to “gather signatures” to make the town understand the problem at hand. He recognized it is unsafe to cross without proper signs or lighting, especially at night. However, he said, “pedestrians are like fluids – they tend to follow the path of least resistance.”
One student asked if FSU plans to institute identity sensitivity training for teachers and faculty members.
Huddleston said, “The number one requested training by our faculty is that of gender sensitivity. However, one training isn’t going to change a mindset. It may bring awareness, but it will take a lot more work to change a mindset. Instead, we must encourage teachers to operate an inclusive classroom.”
Huddleston added he will make sure the preferred name policy is enforced.
Senior Rylan O’Day said, “I think the training should also focus on helping those students who have been mis-gendered or picked on by other students in class. I’ve been mis-gendered by my classmates time and time again, some who have been in class with me since my freshman year. I want faculty members to be able to take action or at least offer up room for conversation.
“I would love to see this training get started,” he added.
Another student expressed frustration with the lack of privacy at the student services center.
“I do not feel comfortable talking about my financial situation there. There is a real lack of privacy in that office,” the student said.
Holloway said, “Many students have come to complain about the center, and we recognize there needs to be a change. We want to redesign the space to provide not only a more welcoming environment, but a private space to discuss personal information.”
Junior Kyle Rosa said, “I want to see professor evaluations applied to the following semester’s classes, so I was wondering if we could speed up the process to make the evaluations accessible to teachers during the breaks in-between semesters. That way, they can apply that information to the following semester.”
Vaden-Goad said, “We would like to see the system move to being an online resource. … That way teachers would have immediate access to the results. We just need student confirmation that they would take the time to fill them out online.”
SGA President Ezequiel De Leon said, “I encourage all of you to take it upon yourself to be that change. … If you brought up an issue here today, you have a mission now. You are to follow up with that, to share your voice.”