Students raise concerns directly to administration

Open meeting in Shafer brings community together for discussion

Sam Stephenson, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Allegheny College canceled classes Friday in order for the community to meet and express concerns to administrators and each other over Professor of English Kirk Nesset’s arrest. The meeting, originally scheduled from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., lasted for more than 2.5 hours.

President James Mullen returned from a series of alumni visits in New York City to be with the community during the forum.

“I wanted to be here,” Mullen said. “I wanted to be here for the community. It’s important I hear what the community feels and that they know I’m with them.”

We can’t go on without addressing the systemic issues that come with an institution that has been around for 200 years.”

— Larry Hailsham

Students and faculty have raised concern over how the administration handled releasing the official statement following the initial report of Nesset’s arrest. Mullen said that the administration wanted to get all the facts first before sending an email.

“I was in New York City on Wednesday in the afternoon,” Mullen said. “I received a call that we had been informed that this resignation was going to happen. We began to talk about understanding the facts of the situation and we sought to begin to put together a communication that would go to the campus community. I said the important thing was to do it when we got our facts together. That clearly these are very sensitive matters and that statement went out the next morning.”

Larry Hailsham, ’15, president of Allegheny Student Government, believes the conversation held in the Shafer auditorium goes beyond the incident concerning Nesset.

“The issue on our campus is far bigger than what has happened with Professor Nesset. It is far more important than what has happened with Professor Nesset. It is far more pressing than what has happened with Professor Nesset.

“We can’t go on without addressing the systemic issues that come with an institution that has been around for 200 years. It is not an issue that should only be addressed by the CIASS office. It is not an issue that should be only be addressed by the the dean of students office. It is an issue that spans from physical plant to Parkhurst, all the way to athletics. The issue is how we treat another and how we see another. And it can’t continue to happen,” said Hailsham.

Brittany Davis, assistant visiting professor of environmental science, is a first year professor at Allegheny College. Following the forum, Davis commented on a theme that seemed to be a predominant issue for the community.

“I don’t think it’s okay not to be a part of the conversation,” Davis said. “This campus needs conversation. The number of people who said today that there is a culture of silence here, I’ve noticed that in my time here and find it disturbing and the only way to prevent from being that culture of silence is to come to these things to speak, to listen to other people speak, to hear them, to take what they say to heart and try to do better.”

As a new professor, Davis felt that the community had flaws to begin with.

“I knew from approximately the day after I stepped foot on this campus this community had issues and that was before students were even back,” said Davis. “I mean, I’ve been dealing with it since I started, you have no choice but to deal with it. As minority faculty on this campus, as one of three black female faculty members on this campus I can’t not deal with it. I think some faculty spoke that have had the privilege of not dealing with that. I don’t have that.”

the only way to prevent from being that culture of silence is to come to these things to speak.”

— Brittany Davis

For Hailsham, for the forum to be considered a positive experience more must be done.

“Talking means nothing without action,” he said. “People will leave this conversation wanting to know what we will do as an institution and ASG will be on top of the conversation and ensuring that there is something that will be done because I can’t see any other students feeling the way that they are and hurting the way that they are.”

Davis echoed Hailsham’s remarks and how the community and administration must take action in order for the gathering to have lasting impacts on the Allegheny community.

“It will depend on what the administration does,” Davis said. “It will depend on what, if anything, comes out of this. It will depend on if they take to heart the notion that there are not enough forums like this on campus where students can speak, where students can share and the administration can listen.”

Mullen, moving forward, understands that what happens following the public forum hosted by the administration is pivotal to growing as a community.

“I think it was an important conversation to have. What’s very important now is what happens afterwards,” Mullen said. “It always makes me very sad when a student feels that the experience of being a part of Allegheny is not what they expected. It’s my responsibility to lead us to a place where every student who comes here feels part of this campus community in a positive way and experiences what a college experience, what a college education should be about.”