Nearly a year after last year’s Walkout, students returned to the steps of Old Main to voice their frustrations with the Knox administration.
Approximately 20 protesters were present throughout the day, which began at 10 a.m. when students began making posters and ducttaping their mouths on the Alumni Hall patio.
At least fifty prospective students from Curie IB High School were expected on campus Wednesday, May 27. As these students left Alumni Hall in the morning, protesters held the posters and distributed pamphlets relating to issues of sexual assault and racism on the Knox campus to prospective students.
Later, the student protesters sat outside of Old Main holding posters and talking to prospective students through a megaphone. Throughout the day, members of the Office of Communications and Campus Safety were present throughout the area.
President Teresa Amott declined to comment on the protest and pointed to a sign on her office door which contained her statement to the campus: “The President supports free speech and the Knox tradition of student activism. You are welcome here.”
Some students involved in the protest have been meeting with members of the administration to discuss their demands relating to the college’s handling of Title IX cases. Their most recent meeting occurred the morning of the protest.
“The conversation essentially went nowhere because there’s this rift between the administration and the students where administrators are saying, ‘We have the conditions met for the OCR.’ And students are actually literally bringing TItle IX complaints to the OCR saying, “My case was mishandled,’” senior Erica Witzig said. She was one of the students present at the meeting in the morning and the subsequent protest.
“I think that most of our conversations with administration have not been productive in the least,” said sophomore Yaneza Aguinaga, who was not at this morning’s meeting, but has met with the administration in the past.
The protesters specifically decided to protest on a day on which several prospective students would be on campus.
“We recognize that all schools have issues; however that doesn’t mean it’s okay that our issues go unresolved. So for me it’s just letting prospective students know what they’re getting into and they can make their own decision after that, but I don’t think that these things should be hidden,” Aguinaga said.
Students also voiced concerns over mandated reporting, which still has not been overturned by the administration. Sophomore Mads Bruce came to the protest because of her frustrations with the current policies, which required her as a TA to be a mandated reporter.
“It’s extremely silencing, and I think a great example of that is the fact that I’m sharing a bunch of random, anonymous multiple stories on my posters and on my shirt about different cases that I’ve heard about and I’m afraid that I, myself, because I’m protesting, am going to be thrown through the Title IX process which has been found to be victim blaming and covering up victims’ stories,” Bruce said.
Many students’ posters dealt with the topic of Title IX issues and the Office of Civil Rights case, which was announced nearly a year ago.
Freshman Sam Klingher talked about a friend who was deterred from Knox because of its status as a school under Title IX investigation.
“I think we’re missing a lot by having this issue in the air. We need the administration to address it and recognize that the ideal situation is to make it safe for prospective students,” he said.
Since the Title IX investigation has been opened, Knox hired Assistant to Athletic Director Kim Schrader as Title IX coordinator, replacing Associate Dean of the College Lori Schroeder. Witzig pointed to a disconnect between the student body’s demands and the administration, who maintain that the college’s Title IX policies are in full compliance with guidance from the Office of Civil Rights.
“For years now, students have been trying to reach the administration to let them know that we as the student body are extremely upset with the way that Title IX cases are being handled,” Witzig said. “Student group’s collective efforts have so far accomplished very little, not because of their efforts but because the administration doesn’t want to listen. I know that sounds very blunt, but it’s quite frankly the truth.”
Office of Communications Associate Vice President and Chief Communication Officer Megan Scott applauded the protest and noted that it was inline with Knox’s tradition of student activism.
“This is a good thing. This is what should be happening on a college campus, and there are a lot of issues that are facing the nation at Knox that students feel strongly about,” Scott said.
The administration has been working on its One Community document that addresses several concerns brought forth by students at the protest, including campus sexual assault and issues of diversity. This document would allow students to get information from one working document, instead of several conflicting offices.
“It’s hard when you’re in a 10-week term, three terms, things move quickly in terms of your classes and how you move forward but I think when you have big changes that need to potentially be made it’s slow, particularly with policies and procedures,” she said. This year Knox has created a bias incident reporting form and gender-neutral bathrooms.
“Those are things we can address right away, but there are other changes such as curricular changes and making sure faculty and staff better reflect the diversity of our student body, that takes time, so I think we’re trying to respond to those issues that we can make a change with immediately and then move forward with the others,” she said.
The administration has yet to release a campus-wide response to the protest.
“I really just hope that they listen,” Bruce said.