In an attempt to head off a repeat of the infamous blackface incident of 2017, every year as Halloweekend comes back around, departments and clubs scramble to plead with students to think through their costume choices. This year, this took the form of the Wellness Committee hosting an event on Cultural Appropriation on Oct. 27, and a variety of informational Instagram posts reminding students of the same.
While Nicole Lombardi, SGA Advisor, began SGA’s Oct. 28 meeting with a reminder to be safe and cognizant of outfit choices, the meeting concluded with the formation of an ad hoc committee for Institutional Accountability, chaired by Carlos Corrada ’22, to determine a path forward regarding the student recently detained and arrested on campus by police, as well as the conduct hearing process of the college as a whole. During the ensuing conversation, comments were made by multiple members of the Senate, including Sophie Waters ’23, Guthrie Hartsfield, ’23, Aba Lypps ’21 and Eva Danielson ’22 that pointed to students’ uneasiness at what they saw as the hypocrisy of the administration. Several pointed to President Hanno’s presence at the student-led rally to counterprotest the Trump rally the preceding Saturday, and wondered at the school’s decision to ask a student to leave campus in the middle of a pandemic.
As a result, SGA made the decision to cancel the “Halloween at Hanno’s” celebration, moving instead to “Halloween in the (Club) Hub,” where students would be able to pick up Halloween candy and meet their class representatives. A statement posted on the @sgawheaton Instagram page on Oct. 31 included the reasoning for the decision, “We feel as though our values as an organization do not align with that of our college administration due to the current climate of campus, so we do not feel comfortable working in such a close capacity with them.”
President Hanno sent an email prior to this to the college, assuring the student body that, “Our campus offices will continue to work with those involved to ensure they are safe and are afforded all the rights of the student conduct process,” a statement that felt inadequate to many, including me, coming on the heels of the general student impression that the student was unsafe simply because they had been asked to leave campus in the middle of a pandemic.
SGA making this very public statement is a callback to 2017, a reminder that students yet again are leading the conversations about the difference between diversity and inclusion on campus. This and the blackface incident of 2017 are vastly different situations, of course, but what they speak to is continued attempts from the student body to hold the administration responsible for promoting the spirit of inclusivity they are willing to reference constantly. Back then, BSA made Hanno go further than his emailed statement that “This is not acceptable in this community,” and I hope that SGA will take their lead, pushing him to go further than his statement of, “great trust in the fairness of our disciplinary process.” I’m also hopeful that they go further than this public statement and interest in this individual incident, and continue to explore the design of the student conduct process.
Mikaela Savarese ’22, a member of the Ad-Hoc Committee, said, “The Ad-Hoc Committee on Institutional Responsibility has begun looking into the student conduct process and has been in contact with the administration in an attempt to ensure that the student in question, and every student henceforth, receives all aspects of a fair and safe trial.”
When Dean Zachary Irish’s email prior to Halloween only reminds you that, “In the spirit of inclusivity, when people wear costumes that make a stereotypical statement…the message MAY BE offensive,” (emphasis is mine) rather than stating “IS offensive,” and in the same breath speaks of increased police presence, it is refreshing to watch SGA make this very public statement about their insistence on standing with the student body and the student body’s outrage at the college’s treatment of a vulnerable student of color.