On April 23, the Office of Student Leadership and Service (SLS) hosted the Spring Leadership Workshop. This Zoom event featured Kira Taylor, who spoke about biases and discrimination during the workshop. During the Zoom call, one student leader became unmuted and could be heard saying, “I’m in a meeting right now, and it’s a waste of my time.” Following this statement, other students have reported that she left the meeting. Students have been expressing their dismay about the comment, both during the workshop in the chat and afterward, through multiple @DearMereCo posts and a letter calling for the student to be removed from her position. Students who were in attendance have claimed that the individual who made the comment was Colleena Zacharzuk, ‘23. The Meredith Herald reached out to Zacharzuk for comment and to verify this claim, but she did not respond.
Dean of Students Ann Gleason and Director of Student Leadership and Service Cheryl Jenkins provided The Meredith Herald with their response to the letter that was published calling on them to discipline the student. They stated that their “expectation is that student leader training will be approached with humility, a willingness to learn, and open minds.” Following the comment made during the workshop, Jenkins and Dean Gleason said that they are “following the established processes” in their offices to address the remark. They added, “Addressing concerns about student leaders is a multi-step process which includes making sure the harm that the student’s action had on others in the event, organization, program and campus community is understood...by the student committing the action.” While they were unable to share any further details about the situation due to confidentiality, they acknowledged that students also have a “significant responsibility as part of Meredith’s student governance system” to respond to such incidents. They said, “We appreciate the leadership shown by the students who signed the letter in The Meredith Herald and commit to working with them to hold student leaders accountable to high expectations and standards.”
Gaige Cogswell, Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Service, provided more information about the process for addressing student behavior such as this. Cogswell stated that SLS is working with the organization and/or department with whom the student represents to “review and consult on the processes that exist for navigating a student leader concern and educating on expectations and standards of student leaders within their organization/department.” As far as removing the student from her leadership position, Cogswell told The Herald that the procedures for doing so would be found within the constitution of the particular student organization the student represents. In the event that the organization does not have a procedure outlined for officer removal, the procedures outlined in the Student Government Association (SGA) Constitution By-Laws (Article III, Section 6) would be used. Generally, this process is used when a student has not been fulfilling their duties, and SLS and SGA work with the club throughout the removal process. Cogswell said that the process “begins with an important conversation with the student who is perceived to not be fulfilling their duty.” Cogswell also noted that “the organization leaders must issue oral and written warnings to acknowledge the concern at hand” before removal is an option. While the process does not always result in the student leader being removed from their position, there are also other steps organizations can take. “Organization members and advisers can work together to set action plans for the officer to set goals and demonstrate results over a designated time period,” Cogswell said. “This action plan aligns with the SLS goal for continuous learning and growth of Meredith’s student leaders.”
By Olivia Slack, Co-Editor in Chief