Last week, members of the Student Diversity Initiative staged a successful walkout and accompanying assembly to voice grievances held by many Knox students against the administration. Personal stories and experiences ranging from hardship from the cost to attend Knox to administrative mishandling of harassment cases were expressed.
As a Political Science major deeply interested in protest, I must say I was very impressed by the event. I was particularly glad to see the focus of the walkout put on individuals so that their stories could be shared.
My main concern before the event was that the walkout would be unorganized and very vague as to the problems the group wanted addressed. But the execution of the protest was top notch, allowing very real and tangible problems the student body has faced over the last four years to be showcased.
With that said, I think the event can only be labeled as a success if there is the proper follow-up, from both the students and the administration. The walkout brought to the table many issues facing the student body, but it is not up to the administration alone to propose solutions and offer guidance. While the event itself sent a very strong message, simply protesting without follow-through rarely leads to any significant changes.
Another concern I felt after hearing of the plan to walkout was that such a move could create tremendous tension with the administration, without encouraging the dialogue necessary to improve the campus as a whole. I think the personal nature of the assembly did well to avoid such a tension, but only if the same sentiment is used to work with existing school structures.
To be frank, Knox students seldom utilize all the avenues we have for getting a message or policy to the administration. While this is understandable for many of the problems expressed at the event — particularly when the problem itself is with the administration — there are a number of structures in place that allow students to change policy and voice their opinions.
Student Senate, for example, is rarely attended by anyone outside the elected members. These sessions are open, and even give time in their meeting structure to questions and comments from the student body. Moreover, as seen with the campus’ new Good Samaritan Policy, students outside of Senate have the ability to propose policy changes that can be endorsed by Senate at large.
Additionally, the school has been a big fan of open forums as of late. Unfortunately, many occur with sparse student attendance. There seems to be a general sentiment on campus that the administration does not listen to the students, yet with so many forums going unattended, it is difficult to support such a claim.
While the administration may not be so keen to listen to the head of a club when they make suggestions, a wide showing of support tends to go a long way. This is one of the many reasons why the walkout was so powerful to see. Imagine if the same attendance could occur at a forum where students additionally propose solutions to the problems that have been revealed.