Students Protest Faculty Meeting, College Clarifies Next Steps


Students held signs and linked arms outside of the Tuesday, Nov. 7 faculty meeting from 12 p.m. to 12:40 p.m., then moved the protest to the HUB stairwell.

Rachael Franchini ’19, Editor-in-Chief

In light of ongoing investigations regarding an incident from two weekends ago involving a photo of a student dressed as Colin Kaepernick and a student holding a toy gun, students protested during the Tuesday, Nov. 7 faculty meeting with signs, linked arms and chants.

According to Thomas Connell ’19, the protestors decided to have the demonstration during the faculty meeting “to make it known to the faculty that we wanted them to address more cultural differences and cultural appropriation in the classroom…[the] burden is getting put on marginalized groups of color [for] education when really, that’s not their job.”

“Some faculty have completely skirted the issue and they haven’t addressed it in their classes,” stated Sayhahn Mudd ’21.

“If they don’t want to talk about it [in classes] then they’re going to see it!” Teryon Lowery ’20 added.

Several emails have been sent out to the Dickinson community regarding the college’s response to the incident, and how the college plans to go forward with the investigation and any other necessary proceedings.

On Friday, Nov. 3, President Margee Ensign called the image “hurtful and offensive,” and wrote that “many [students] are struggling because we have not provided details about what is happening.”

She then proceeded to explain that interviews have been ongoing to collect more information about the incident. “If there are violations of our community standards,” the email read, “a hearing panel made up of a faculty member, a student and an administrator will review the case and decide what sanctions may be imposed.”

Ensign also mentioned that Head Coach of the Men’s Lacrosse team David Webster has suspended the involved students indefinitely from the lacrosse team.

This sanction occurred despite the fact that there is currently no definitive proof that there were violations of conduct, considering the students in question denied the majority of the accusations of the narrative surrounding the incident, including blackface and the perception that the gun was pointed at the Kaepernick costume.

However, “student athletes, because they uniquely represent the college, are held to higher standards of behavior,” shared Dean and Vice President of Student Life Joyce Bylander.

Webster verified these sentiments, adding “Our team has certain expectations related to respect in our community… We will continue to work with the two individuals and help them to learn and grow from this difficult situation.”

In an email sent out by Bylander on Tuesday, Nov. 7 following the faculty meeting, she reiterated the policy of dealing with violations of community standards explained in Ensign’s earlier email.

“Our collective challenge is to raise the visibility of the harm caused by images such as this one,” Bylander wrote. “We are working with the Landis Collective, Student Senate, Athletics and the Intercultural Competency Task Force to sponsor events and programs to educate our community.”

During the faculty meeting itself, professors shared a wide range of comments regarding the discussion about transparency with the student body in terms of the actions being taken to deal with the issue, the concern about the gun in the photo and the hope that the campus would take this incident as an opportunity to come together and learn.

“What strikes me is that someone made the choice to stop the video at that particular place and take a picture of it and post that…I’m just curious what that person’s motivations were,” stated Catrina Hamilton-Drager, chair of the physics and astronomy department, referring to the uncertainty of whether the gun was pointed at the student dressed as Kaepernick, or if it was being waved around the room. “Do we have the video in our possession and do we know who took it?… I think that if we knew who did that, we’d have a better idea.” As the video was posted to a social media forum, it is possible that the screenshot was taken by someone outside of the Dickinson community.

Professor of Political Science James Hoefler cited the gun in the photo as a crucial piece of the discussion.

“If you’ve got a gun…then people with guns get shot sometimes…you wouldn’t carry a gun into an airport today, so for everybody that says that we’re just getting too worried about this, the mass shootings that are taking place almost weekly now, and the fact that the rules have changed in recent years…You wouldn’t even mention a gun at the airport.”

He continued: “This would be a good thing for us as a community to do, to advise each other that this is not funny anymore and that we’re not going to carry a gun for joke, costume or any other purpose.”

“I think what happened was this person did, what I would consider, a stupid thing,” commented Professor of History Stephen Weinberger, “It was thoughtless, I don’t think it was malevolent but it certainly ended up causing fear, offending some people…I think what’s coming out of it is something beneficial, in that it’s becoming a teaching moment.”

On the school’s handling of the incident, Weinberger stated, “I think the school was handling this very responsibly, very maturely.”

Many students do not agree with this assessment.

“I think the administration tends to give students the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the discrimination policy. In a country where the topic of race is inescapable, the assumption that white students who commit racially charged offensive acts are unaware of their wrongdoing is overly sympathetic,” stated Ari Watson ’18.

They added: “These events continue to occur not because students are unaware of the implications of their actions but because there is no real consequence for these actions.”

Hannah Gore ’18 said, “I think many of us [students] are out here [protesting] because Dickinson needs cultural and institutional changes and students need to wake up… The fact that a lot of students still don’t know why it was problematic or they aren’t aware what students of color face on this campus is a major problem.”

“Students are doing this themselves,” stated Toni Ortega ’18. “When are they [the administration] going to…do it themselves? … This is your role… This is really a call on them; ‘We’re doing our part; can you do yours?’”