Last week, Student Senate was faced with the controversial topic of the recent anonymous postering in Seymour Union over the previous few days.
In the pre-meeting mutterings outside the chamber, many diverse stances on the issue could be overheard from the gathered senators, some hailing the posters as bringing light to a long obscured issue and others decrying them as harmful and even slanderous. Upon entering the chamber, however, one set of views became abundantly clear to all present.
Senators were startled to find the room plastered with sheets of paper displaying phrases such as “This Resolution Inhibits Open Discourse,” “Censorship Inhibits Open Discussion and Free Speech,” “Anonymity is Our Right,” and “Your Intimidation is not Working.”
Unbeknownst to the Senate as a whole, one or more disgruntled students had apparently snuck into the room before the meeting and taped over a hundred of the printed sheets around the entirety of the room.
Furthermore, displayed by the projector on the main screen of the room was a slide reading “Dear Heather, Your resolution is a joke. <3, your constituents.”
The discontent was clearly centered on “A Resolution Concerning Anonymous Signs,” brought to the floor by Student Senate President senior Heather Kopec, the text of which is at the end of this article. The resolution had been created as a direct response to the student concerns raised over the posters in Seymour. Kopec handed the position of Chair to Treasurer Liesl Pereira, stepping down to speak in sponsorship of the resolution.
“This resolution was spurred from a large number of e-mails from students that I have received this week stating that they felt hurt, offended or intimidated from anonymous posters,” Kopec said. “They asked for Senate’s help. Because help has been asked, I have written the resolution that is before you.”
The divisions in the chamber became quite clear almost immediately after the conclusion of Kopec’s statement.
“As a committee, Safety and Services has discussed this resolution, and we find it contrary to student interests,” Senator and sophomore Angie Ostaszewski said, speaking from a prepared statement.
The resolution received vocal support from the chamber in the course of the debate.
“Isn’t all this is doing is asking people to grow up and grow a freaking backbone?… If you’re just going to hide behind a poster, that’s not going to do anything… nothing positive is going to come of it,” one senator said.
The debate ranged briefly onto the subject of the perceived commentary on Greek letter fraternity and sorority system on Knox campus.
“It is unfair for any person to slander another without proper repercussions,” then-IFC President and junior Jimmy Thorton said.
The resolution ended up facing stiff opposition from a wide base of senators and students.
“The purpose of anonymous posting, chalking and postering is to start a discussion on an issue that a person doesn’t believe that they have the ability to start a discussion on,” Vice President and senior Trevor Sorenson said. “We have the right to freedom of speech.”
Even some senators on the fence found themselves moved in opposition to the resolution.
“First of all, I want to say, as much as I support what this is about… I don’t think we can pass this as a Senate because it limits free speech in such a way that it prevents people from speaking out,” Senator and junior Sarah Juist said.
After over 50 minutes of debate on the issue, the resolution failed in a roll-call vote of six in favor and 32 opposed, with six senators abstaining from the vote.
At the end of a meeting was an open discussion on the recent posters in Seymour, which had addressed the topic of recent sexual assaults on campus. The debate ranged over many of the same topics that had been brought up during the consideration of the previous resolution, with some expanded considerations included as well.
“People were offended [by the posters]. Victims of sexual assault were offended by them… these posters cause nasty rumors… it caused unnecessary drama that the people who put them up didn’t have to deal with,” PanHellenic Council President and senior Maddie Eaton said.
The discussion as a whole quickly devolved into a Greek versus Anti-Greek argument, though Dean of Students Xavier Romano did offer clarification of the sexual assaults that had been reported by the Campus Safety Log. According to Romano, one had been dealt with already and the other “is very close to being settled to the satisfaction of the grievant.”
Also considered by the chamber was “A Resolution Concerning the State and Condition of Wallace Lounge,” sponsored by the Executive Board of Student Senate. The resolution was amended to include a call for an emphasis on incremental changes instead of the “all or nothing” approach that Senate and the administration had attempted in the past.
The entire consideration of the resolution lasted a little over four minutes, and was passed by unanimous consent by the entire chamber.
A Green Fee Proposal for $587.70 for recycling bins for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house was passed with minimal discussion.
An additional fund request for $790 to AAINA for a Mendhi workshop passed in the consent agenda. At the end of the meeting, there was approximately $37,000 remaining in the discretionary fund for the year.
A Resolution Concerning Anonymous Signs
WHEREAS: Knox College students are very passionate, and as students we are taught to freely and open express our opinions,
WHEREAS: We live and learn in a community that promotes open discourse and transparency,
WHEREAS: It is already a practice whereby a vast majority of signs and chalk markings are currently authored,
WHEREAS: A sign or chalking that is not authored inhibits both open discourse and transparency,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Knox College Student Senate here assembled recommends to members of the Administration that the following be adopted:
“No sign or chalk marking will be permitted on the Knox College campus unless it is signed, or otherwise clearly indicates the individual(s)/group(s) that made it. Any sign or chalk marking that is not properly signed, or clearly indicated, will be removed.”
A Resolution Concerning the State and Condition of Wallace Lounge
WHEREAS: Wallace Lounge flooded during the winter of 2007 and has been practically unusable since,
WHEREAS: There is a documented need for more programmable space,
WHEREAS: Many ideas and evolutions of plans have been made for this space and none have come to fruition,
WHEREAS: Student life would greatly benefit from having a large, empty space for hosting social events,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Knox College Student Senate here assembled asks that the necessary renovations to bring Wallace Lounge to a safe and useable state be made a top priority.