On Monday, Feb. 6, students awoke to find a stark message on the two Free Expression boards between Vann and the library. One said “Meredith is dying” and the other “Listen to your students.” The person(s) responsible for painting the message have not been identified. The Herald reached out to students and staff to gain a better understanding of how the campus is responding.
Rebecca Simmons, ‘23, wished she’d been the one to do it. “I wanted to shake the hand that painted it and keep their secrets,” she said. “The sign made me feel heard as a disabled student who has witnessed and experienced bias and discrimination at Meredith.”
Simmons believed the sign was referring to the habit of administrators to “serve their own interests and adhere to their jobs before they serve students.” She also cited @inaccessibilityatmeredith on Instagram, which has brought attention to inaccessibility and ableism on campus.
Simmons was one of three students who started signing the board. “I chose to sign my name to the board in solidarity,” she explained.
In a previous article, The Herald was told that the students do not need permission to use the Free Expression Boards. Dean Gleason commented on the likelihood of administrative intervention with regard to the boards and stated that, “The boards are free for anyone to use, but they, ultimately, remain the property of Meredith College and are therefore governed by its regulations.”
Meredith hosts weekly tours for prospective students and is also hosting a leadership conference on Feb. 11. Dean Gleason said, “The College has not formalized any plans to remove the boards” when asked if they would be allowed to remain on campus during these events.
Dean Gleason addresses that if there are any student concerns, that “Meredith College is committed to receiving and addressing student concerns and responding in a clear and timely manner, when possible.” Dean Gleason also said that “Any Meredith student may bring a concern to the Student Government Association.”
Cheryl Jenkins, Director of Student Leadership and Service (SLS), said “Our SLS staff members work with student government branches so we are regularly engaged in conversations with students who have concerns about Meredith College and want to improve it.” in regards to if anyone on the Student Leadership Staff was aware of the intentions with the message.
She continues by saying, “We work with lots of students who want their voices to be heard and we support the idea that students’ feedback and input is important to the growth of the College.”
In response to what she wants to say to Meredith students with concerns about how the College operates, Jenkins said “There are many avenues for providing feedback and input to the College. The Dean of Students has the following information on their site.”
President Allen’s Response
Following the event, President Jo Allen sent a message out to all undergraduate and graduate students on Tuesday, Feb. 7 (the full email can be found at the end of the article). At the time of the email, President Allen was in Washington D.C. “advocating for higher education” to help students be successful “regardless of their socioeconomic status.” She explained that the week showed her “the power of conversations and building relationships.”
President Allen said, “While we might not always agree on the outcome, we always uphold truths of respect and human dignity. Standing on these principles we will become an even stronger Meredith College.”
Despite overlapping themes, Kristi Eaves-McLennan, the Vice President for Marketing and Communications, explained that Dr. Allen’s message was not in reference to the Free Expression boards. Eaves-McLennan issued the following statement to The Herald:
“Dr. Allen’s statement to the community is reflective of her thoughts after spending the day supporting the mission of Meredith College and joining her voice with others to encourage legislative funding and policy decisions that reflect the benefits of higher education. Specifically, she also notes the value of being able to talk with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in respectful ways that address top concerns.”
In addition to this, the email included information about how students can email email@example.com to share comments and concerns with the College’s senior leaders. Dean Gleason added that “Dr. Allen announced the establishment of firstname.lastname@example.org where students can write with their concerns.”
However, Eaves-McLennan explained that the email address has been around since 2011, but was shared in the email to “remind students of its existence and to let them know that all submissions are read by senior leaders.”
The Herald received a tip that the boards were painted over on Friday, Feb. 10 around 1 a.m. It is not known who covered the boards up or why.
Story by Aminah Jenkins, Editor in Chief, and Haileigh West, Opinion Editor
Videography by Destiny Calvin