Tuesday morning found nine students sitting quietly on the south steps of Old Main. A few held signs, illuminated by the rising sun, reading, “I want my dean back” and “I feel betrayed by my school.”
The rally was organized by junior Samantha Claypool. Claypool created a Facebook event on Monday after hearing rumors that Xavier Romano was no longer with the institution.
The event was originally titled “Supportive Sit-In” and focused on the absence of Romano himself, but both the name and event description changed later on Monday.
“I took a supportive angle at the beginning. I wanted it to be a positive and not a negative thing, but after speaking to someone who was opposed, who criticized the event, it changed,” said Claypool.
The event was re-titled “Knox College Transparency Rally” and was described as a “place for students to reflect on the administration’s refusal to address the issues in a way that includes student input from ALL sides.”
“I wanted to make this more of a progressive thing where students could actually work together,” said Claypool. “I believe, after reading some of the comments on the event, that a lot of people want transparency and that’s something everyone can get behind.”
Junior Anni Becker agreed.
“I think it’s important that the message changed, that the reason for the rally changed. It shows that we are able to listen to each other, that we can have a conversation and sort of come to a better consensus through speaking,” she said.
As the morning progressed, students came and went. Some got up to chalk messages on the path leading to Old Main while others chose to sit and discuss their grievances.
At 8:42 a.m., President Roger Taylor addressed the group.
“There is frustration when I don’t share all the information that maybe you’d like to know about, but there are times when it’s not appropriate. There are times when sharing information might be hurtful to other parties,” said Taylor. “I know it probably doesn’t lower your level of frustration. There are just some things that would be inappropriate for me to talk about.”
Attendees did not feel satisfied by Taylor’s comments.
“I feel like he could have been a lot more real with us rather than giving the standard administrative answer,” said junior Sarah Juist.
Senior Liesl Pereira echoed the sentiment.
“I want to hear some answers. I want to know why my dean’s gone. I want to know why my senior year of college this is happening when Xavier has helped students for 12 years,” said Pereira.
At 9:20 a.m., the remaining six participants moved inside because of weather conditions.
The group stood outside Taylor’s office and deliberated whether or not to seek audience with the president.
At 9:35 a.m. the group disbanded and the event ended.
“I just don’t feel it makes sense to have a more confrontational meeting,” said senior Joey Firman. “While this larger issue has been going on for a while, this most recent development is still pretty recent.”
Students described different reasons for their participation in the rally. Some saw it as a chance to encourage administrative transparency, while others used it to express their support for Xavier Romano.
“Whether or not you support Xavier or don’t support him or don’t know what’s going on, you deserve the right to know why your Dean of Students has been absent for three weeks,” said Pereira.
Senior Jordan Stoune saw the rally as an opportunity to express faith in Romano.
“I think it’s a real disservice to students to take away Xavier,” said Stoune. “Personally, for me [this rally] is about Xavier, but I think it’s good to have it anyway so that students feel like their voice is being heard.”
Not all students supported the gathering. Claypool deleted a few comments on the Facebook event page.
“I will admit it’s wrong to squander what anyone’s going to say,” said Claypool. “I just felt that some of them were not constructive criticisms.”
Senior Lauren Peretz noticed this action. “I don’t support this event, even if they changed the name to get more people to come,” she said.
“I don’t believe that the person or people who made the event really believe that it should be about transparency; I think they’re just looking to show their opposition to Xavier’s [alleged] termination.”
Peretz pronounced confidence that Knox administration would not terminate any individual’s position without due cause.
“I trust the administration to make us aware of what has happened when the time is right,” she said.
Senior Zack Lazar shares some of Peretz’s feelings.
“The event could’ve been given more time to marinate, because clearly it was being amended up until the day of the event,” he said. “Something like this should happen. With time and planning, I think a rally could be an excellent idea.”
Lazar feels that the details of the issue may still be too fresh to be made public.
“Things might be too personal right now for student authority to maintain civil discussion,” he said. “In regards to transparency, it would be inappropriate to release the details of Dean Romano’s separation from the college at this time; this potentially damaging information is not worth a man’s career and possibly a family’s future.”
Pereira submitted that the issue is personal.
“I think that Dean Romano is one of very few people on this campus whose job is almost entirely to serve students,” she said. “I feel like one of the few people on this campus who would have an ear to any student who wants to come in no matter what they want to talk about, no matter what the topic is, it was Xavier.”