ASUC Forum Tackles Tense Campus Climate
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Category: News > University > ASUC
Spurred by the altercation between advocates of Israel and Palestine on Thursday, student leaders and administrators held a forum Monday night to encourage dialogue and discuss possible remedies to what many are calling an increasingly tense campus climate.
About 80 people attended the forum, which was facilitated by ASUC President Roxanne Winston and Executive Vice President Krystle Pasco, to vocalize their concerns about issues ranging from the handling of the recent altercation to campus safety.
Last week's fight occurred after three students hung Palestinian flags on an Eshleman Hall balcony in response to what they said were anti-Palestinian lyrics from a pro-Israel concert below. Upon seeing the flags, three pro-Israel audience members, including a current and former ASUC senator, went up to the balcony.
A fight took place shortly afterwards, leading to the citations of two pro-Palestine students and one pro-Israel alumnus for battery.
Many attendees last night did not agree on which issues should be discussed in relation to the altercation. For instance, some speakers said accusations over who was involved are detrimental, while others argued that the involved individuals need to be held accountable for their actions.
Despite the wide range of opinions, many expressed disappointment that the conversations lacked key details about the conflict.
"(People left) because they saw that people had different agendas and because people planned to say things that they couldn't, because the facilitators, in all due respect, were trying too hard to keep an environment of political correctness and politeness," said fifth-year Marcy Rosner.
Dean of Students Jonathan Poullard, who attended the forum, said the campus's Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards is investigating the fight, adding that those found responsible will face recourses.
During the second half of the forum, attendees broke into groups to develop possible actions that ASUC, administration and students should take to mitigate conflicts. Some proposals included campus facilitation of peer-led programs to educate students in conflict resolution.
Additionally, Winston asked participants whether they identified with scenarios of prejudice. Many indicated that they have said or been victimized by discriminatory comments.
Carlo de la Cruz, the ASUC's academic affairs vice president, said that while the forum was a good first step, there must be further discussion.
"I think this type of forum and structure allows for at least some discussion to take place after such an emotional and contentious event," he said.
Campus administrators and leaders acknowledged the altercation in a school-wide e-mail Monday evening, stating that a long-term strategy must be developed to ensure such hostility does not continue. One initiative will be a Campus Climate Team to monitor and respond to future incidents.
"The division is developing further policies and practices which will help promote an inclusive and welcoming climate," the letter stated. It was signed by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Gibor Basri, vice chancellor for equity and inclusion, Harry Le Grande, vice chancellor for student affairs and Winston.
Poullard said students must have open dialogue focused on what is best for the broader campus community.
"If I see you as another, I treat you as another. One of my favorite sayings is, 'If I see myself reflected in you, how can I do you harm?'" he said.
Contact Emily Grospe at [email protected]
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