Posted by The Editorial Board
Last Friday, 40 students interrupted April's faculty meeting to protest the college's choice to invite Cynthia Carroll to speak at commencement. The protest was the first of its kind in twenty years -- when students protested the lack of racial diversity -- and garnered much attention among the student body. This newspaper commends the student protestors courage and their conviction to make their voices heard and see their passions manifest into civil action. However, this newspaper does not believe these protestors comported themselves in a manner that deserved the kind of respect they demanded the administration show students. Although it was only the actions of a few that were truly disrespectful, that does not exonerate the rest of the students involved who were just as responsible for this protest and should have controlled their rowdy members.
The controversy over Cynthia Carroll was well evident before this latest act of protest and it is understandable that these protestors wanted the administration to address the issue more directly. What this newspaper finds unfortunate is how quickly the protestors concerned with Carroll's background escalated the matter. With the exception of a small group of largely SGA affiliated students that includes one member of Friday's protesters, the student body has not appealed to the administration with any meaningful action. About twenty students have written letters to the President to complain about Carroll and demand the administration do more to address the issue, but an email that could have been placed in junk inbox or missed among the hundreds of other emails the President's office receives every week is not enough. If the students had taken any strong action before this latest protest; if they had sent a signed petition( with at least 100 names, not even a twentieth of the student body) demanding the administration justify their choice and take more action to redress the protestors' grievances; if they had organized an open event that invited the administration to address the student body; or even if they had first held a sit-in at the President's office, and the administration had continued to ignore this group, then this latest protest may have been justifiable. But these protestors took no visibly significant action first. They acted in a manner that should have been a last resort of protest and interrupted and disturbed the faculty meeting. Furthermore, the fact is that the administration has been overly eager to engage in dialogues with students in regards to the Cynthia Carroll controversy, and have gone so far as to secure a teleconference with Carroll for next week so that students can question her directly. This upcoming teleconference, oddly, was already known by the protestors, but they chose to carry out their protest anyway.
These protestors made a pitiful attempt to speak with the administration and then barged in on the faculty meeting, with a few insulting President Glotzbach. Even if we excused the few discourteous protesters, the protest as a whole remains immature.
Moving forward, those who oppose Cynthia Carroll as a commencement speaker need to conduct themselves in a way which deserves the kind of respect that they demand. It is unclear how many students of the graduating class are so firmly against Cynthia Carroll -- just because the anti-Carroll voices are the loudest does not mean they speak for the majority. Opponents of Carroll need to demonstrate that they have the support of the senior class in their actions. This could most easily be achieved through a petition. Opponents should also initiate the dialogues with the administration that they claim to want. Students need to take charge and responsibly initiate the change they want to see. Lastly, it is quite unlikely that Carroll will be dropped as a commencement speaker. She was chosen over a year ago and this year's commencement already has one less speaker than usual. Instead of demanding that Skidmore withdraw her invitation to speak, concerned students should ask for the administration to reexamine the way that commencement speakers are selected in the future. It is a fair request that students be included on this decision, and this newspaper asks that the administration gives due consideration to this issue.
This is what those 40 students should have done and should do now. To now directly address those 40 students -- you held your protest and got our attention, now prove that you are mature enough to deserve our regard. If you decide to continue down this disruptive road, though, this newspaper and many of the graduating seniors only hope that you are considerate enough to not attempt something similar at graduation and spoil one of the most important days in the lives of the members of senior class.
And to the administration: one of the complaints made by the protestors was that the administration is dragging out the current discussion in place. The administration needs to be thorough and careful, but they cannot just hold out until graduation has come and pass. Time may be on the administration's side but to not address these issues in a timely manner is just as irresponsible as the actions of the student protestors.