Students lead protest against administration

Lawrence Eady, Staff Writer

Students of color at Westmont are no longer the only voices being heard, or silenced, in their fight against racial inequity on campus. On Friday, March 6, over 100 students and faculty took a silent stand outside of Murchison Gym during chapel and then on Kerrwood Lawn directly afterward, to show their support and enact change in the system.

During the stand, almost every student was clad in white clothing with a piece of duct tape covering their mouths. The white clothing was used as a symbol of uniformity amongst the group while the duct tape covering the mouths was used to physically portray the way students of color have been supposedly silenced by both the institution of Westmont and the student body that makes it up.

Participating students, along with their uniforms, held individual signs with different sentences of writing on them that played off of the theme of silence and a lack of action. “We are not satisfied,” read some, along with “We stand with students of color” and more.

The “demonstration of solidarity,” as it was described by participant Kayla Petersen, was an attempt for white students to join the work that students, particularly those of color, have been doing for years surrounding racial equity and lack thereof. Petersen expressed that the goal of the stand was “to create an outlet for students of color and white students to express frustration and desire for action toward the issues of racial inequity on campus.” 

Participants chose the chapel date for “the stand,” as some refer to it, due to a couple of different factors. First, that Friday was the largest student preview day, so not only would prospective students be present to witness the event, but also the parents of the prospective students, trustees, and the whole executive team. Because of this, it was a ‘go big or go home’ moment for those who put the event together. 

Preceding the chapel in question, Dr. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize award-winning psychologist and economist, answered questions in a student-led panel. Along with the admitted students weekend, this event added to the choice of scheduling.

Those in charge also chose that date in response to other events that occurred in the preceding weeks. A few days before the stand, members of the Westmont executive team sent out an email that discussed the conversation that faculty and staff are in the middle of regarding institutional changes in favor of racial inequity. Some students may view the stand as protesting the language used in the email, but according to Kayla Abeyta, the event was more of a way to “hold the executive team accountable” in their claims for change. By putting the event on display in front of members of the executive team, the participants hoped to show their desire for the enactment of the claims, as well as to show that they expected action to back those claims up.

“Students of color cannot be the ones who are constantly bearing the weight of explaining themselves to people,” said Abeyta when asked how students should respond to this event. She continued, “If you know that something is wrong, regardless of your discomfort, you need to be the one to combat that.”

The event stands amidst an ongoing discussion amongst faculty, staff, and the student body surrounding racial inequity, a discussion that is increasingly becoming more prominent within Westmont as a whole. As long as some feel that those of color are silenced and unsupported, this discussion will continue. Policy changes on an institutional level will be fought for by those who are not content.