Photo by Ty Duve/The Simpsonian
Photo by Ty Duve/The Simpsonian

Students to Board of Trustees: “We will not be silent”

October 19, 2018

Students from several academic departments staged a protest during the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday morning.

During the demonstration, which was in response to faculty eliminations announced this month, students whose majors were affected gave speeches to board members in the Kent Campus Center Atrium.

Protesters made posters and put them on easels around the podium where the students spoke. The posters said things such as “Simpson College Liberal Arts,” with the word arts crossed out.

Students wore black in solidarity while standing at the protest.

Students brought homemade posters to the protest, many of which were critical of the faculty reductions. Photo by Randy Paulson/The Simpsonian

Board members, faculty and students gathered as affected students gave speeches about the effects the cuts will have on campus. Board members stood in the Kent Atrium long enough to listen to all of the students’ speeches.

“We understand that it is important to be aware of fields of study outside of our own,” senior Wren Briar-Rose said in a speech.

Briar-Rose spoke on behalf of students in the art department and how the cuts not only affect the art students but every student on campus.

The demonstration was promoted as the “We Will Not Be Silent” Protest, but students who attended understood that only those who gave speeches were supposed to speak. There was, however, occasional snapping or clapping from audience members in agreement.

“I think that was a goal of ours, too, was to keep it peaceful, to keep it silent, except for the people who were speaking on behalf of the departments,” senior Cierra Clark said.

Students who gave speeches also remained respectful and thanked the Board of Trustees members for their time. Each speech was no longer than six minutes, plenty of time for speakers to get their points across.

“I was really proud of the student body and I was really proud to be student body president,” senior Emma Schlenker said. “While we sat there and listened to students, I thought that everyone that spoke was so eloquent and spoke on point. I think that really what they all shared, that wasn’t necessarily said in the exact words but was said by every single person, was that we don’t know where our college is going. And that scares us.”

The student-led protest drew a crowd large enough to fill much of the space in the Kent Campus Center Atrium. Photo by Randy Paulson/The Simpsonian

Junior Blake Carlson and senior Cierra Clark spoke for the costuming department within the theatre department and how recent cuts have, and will continue to, affect their department.

“Not only is renting too expensive to maintain on a budget that is already like a shoestring, it would include many other steps that would involve many other people,” Carlson said.

Clark also said the costume department is responsible for theatre and opera productions, so it would be difficult to have a production without this department.

Senior Tim Palese spoke for the history department in which two of five faculty were cut.

He said the only Simpson professor with a specialty in modern China and modern India is being cut, which will put Simpson in the 18 percent of schools who don’t have specialists in Asian and Latin American History.

Sophomore Jacob Austin, a physics major, spoke at the event. One faculty position from the physics department was targeted for elimination this semester. Photo by Ty Duve/The Simpsonian

Sophomore Jacob Austin spoke for the physics department, which only had two faculty members before the cuts but now has one.

Senior Liz Russell spoke for the music department, specifically for the vocal performance faculty members.

Russell, who started taking music classes at Simpson her senior year in high school, said in her speech that she chose Simpson for the faculty she had met.

“My first time at Simpson College was for the Orpheus Music Camp in 2013. This was where I met some of the amazing faculty, whom I have had as mentors, colleagues and friends over my five years here,” Russell said.

“In particular, Bruce Brown and Kim Roberts,” she added, mentioning two music faculty whose positions were targeted for elimination in the spring.

Senior Liz Russell spoke on behalf of Simpson’s music department. Photo by Ty Duve/The Simpsonian

Junior Angela Eppens spoke for the French- and German-language departments.

“The recent cuts that have been made eliminate Simpson students’ opportunity to communicate with over 365 million people. Future Simpson students will only be allowed to take courses in Spanish following the cuts that go into effect at the end of the 2019-2020 school year,” Eppens said.

Eppens also questioned how students will be able to fill their intercultural communication credit as a part of the Engaged Citizen Curriculum the college requires, especially if a Spanish professor happened to be traveling abroad at a given time.

Junior Levi Lefebure read the demands the protest organizers came up with. The demands include a reduction of administrators’ pay, more transparency from the school regarding faculty eliminations, representation of students and faculty and having a clear vision for the college’s future.

Junior Levi Lefebure, a history major, spoke at the protest. Lefebure was also one of the event’s main organizers. Photo by Ty Duve/The Simpsonian

Students handed out the list of demands to members of the board and administrators in attendance.

“I read it with great interest and understand the concerns here,” Senior Vice President and Academic Dean Kent Eaton said. “I appreciate them being articulated in a thoughtful way so we have a good take away and not just the verbal message.”

Once the speeches concluded, students thanked the Board of Trustees for their attention. Speakers then allowed time to take any questions individual board members had before the board resumed its meeting in Hubbell Hall.

After much of the crowd had dispersed, local TV news crews who were in attendance interviewed Clark, Carlson and Palese, who had helped organize the event.

Faculty members praised the students who organized it and appreciate the support of the students.

“It was well organized. Demands were well articulated. Comments and speeches were extremely well done and well thought out,” said associate dean of academic affairs, Tracy Dinesen. “This is what Simpson students and Simpson is all about, so I’m extremely proud.”

Photo by Randy Paulson/The Simpsonian
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