Students air multiple complaints during protest

Nov 03, 2017

PANTHER 2017 fall tisdale speaks to protesters
Claflin President Dr. Henry N. Tisdale addresses students in W.V. Middleton Auditorium on Nov. 3. (Panther photo by Bradley Harris)

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Claflin students offered a list of complaints to university administrators during a protest on Friday, Nov 3.

Some of the issues cited by students during the protest in front of Tingley Hall and at a meeting with Claflin officials at W.V. Middleton Auditorium included security, communication between the student body and the administration, and living conditions in the dormitories.

Lauren Waklatsi, a sophomore and vice president of the Phi Alpha Delta fraternity chapter at Claflin, said, “I’d like to speak on the fact that there are a lot of the emergency poles on campus that are out of order and I feel like that’s unsafe.”

Waklatsi’s concern came in light of the recent shooting of a Claflin student near an entrance to South Carolina State University.

Other students echoed the concern.

 “I can’t even feel safe enough to park on campus,” junior Athanasia Newkirk said. “I feel like we should have more security cameras around the gym.”

In response, Steve Pearson, the Claflin director of public safety, said, “Title 9 information is sent out on your emails all the time.” He encouraged students to check their emails regularly.

Addressing living conditions in dormitories, students said water in the High Rise dormitory is brown.

On this issue, Provost Dr. Karl Wright said the problem is currently being handled.

Thaddeus Holiday, a sophomore and a residential assistant at High Rise, said computers in the dormitory are outdated and not working properly.

Students also claimed inefficiency by the sanitation staff and discourtesy by the staff of the Office of Residential Life.

A senior, Melinda Staley said, “When I expressed these issues to the women who work in Residential Life, they were rude on many occasions and I’m very tired of it.”

Students also complained about sexual harassment and/or assault on campus.

Rosa Alcantar, a senior biology major, said Claflin is ill-equipped to handle sexual assault cases. “We need a therapist in here.”

Students also called for a revision of the student handbook.

“We’re still following rules and guidelines that might have been suitable for 1869 when it’s 2017,” Mr. Sophomore Tre Lyons said.

Students also cited:

A lack of power for the student government leaders.

Rigid visitation policies for the dormitories.

Poor food quality in the cafeteria.

Dr. Leroy Durant, vice president of student development and services, said students should present their queries in an organized manner. “Nothing you say will go unnoticed.”

Student Government Association President Jessica Tolbert said, “As a student leader, I am excited to see students taking charge.”

Tolbert also said that not many students approach student leaders about problems. To this effect, she said an event called “Table Talk” was organized earlier in the week, where students were approached about campus complaints.

In order to eliminate disconnection between students and the administration, Tolbert said town hall meetings need to become more frequent to enable students to speak up.

“We want to start making our meeting minutes public so that students know what we’ve talked about and if nothing is coming of it, then they’re able to hold SGA accountable,” Tolbert said.

This proposal has not yet been approved.

President Henry Tisdale said very few students come to the open-door sessions he holds on Thursdays. He said the protest was a positive thing that allowed direct interactions between the students and the administration.

“I appreciate the opportunity to listen to the students,” Tisdale said. He said the administration will give feedback in a timely manner.

William Fairfax, one of the students who planned the protest, said it was an opportunity to hold the administration accountable.

When asked about the goal of the protest, Fairfax said students were hoping to get answers from the school administration.

“A lot of these issues need to be fixed before we come back so we can have a successful second semester,” Fairfax said.

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