On April 23, all student leaders for the 2021-22 school year participated in the annual Induction Ceremony and Workshop hosted by the Office of Student Leadership and Service (SLS). This year’s workshop was titled “Navigating Our Own Stuff: Leadership, Identity and Biases.” The presentation was led by Kira Taylor, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Africana Studies, a Master’s in Student Affairs Administration and worked as a graduate assistant in the Multicultural Center under the Office of Intercultural Student Affairs at Appalachian State University.
It was clear that Kira Taylor’s credentials are well-deserved. As student leaders, we found this training to be an extremely useful tool that we could build off of. But there was one student in particular who did not.
As many of you are aware, a fellow student leader has been called out for a comment they made during this workshop. The student seemed to accidentally unmute herself during an activity and said to someone in her environment, “I'm in a meeting right now, and it’s a waste of my time.”
With the prevalence of conversations that have been happening on and off campus, this is too serious of an incident to brush off. This is bigger than just a disagreement. As student leaders, we were asked to read the Code of Ethics for Student Leaders. The statement is as follows:
As a student leader, I pledge my devotion to Meredith College and
do actively profess my belief in the Meredith Honor Code.
I promise to take seriously and responsibly my duties as a student leader, actively work to foster an inclusive Meredith community, and remember that my power, responsibilities, accountability, and credibility lie with my peers, the students who have elected me.
As a representative of Meredith College,
I will present myself in a way that reflects the high values
and ideals for which Meredith College stands.
Note the bolded portion of the statement. At its core, the presentation touched on inclusion. To label it as a “waste of time” is to label inclusion as a “waste of time.” If the student is comfortable with sharing this information in a private setting, who knows what she is willing to say or do publicly or how she will use her position of power to exclude students on campus.
This isn’t the first time a student leader has been called out for exclusionary behavior. The response is often that these students just “need to be taught.” But what do you do when they don't care about what’s being taught? How do you respond when they don’t want to participate in training? BIPOC students, LGBTQIA+ students, disabled students, DACA and undocumented students, lower socioeconomic status students, international students and more have been subjected to exclusionary behavior at Meredith for too long. Some of us are members of these marginalized and underrepresented groups on campus. When is it our turn to be protected? When will Meredith pursue our interests instead of tokenizing our presence and taking our money?
This incident should be easily resolved. This is the time to remove them from their position. SLS sent an email to student leaders on Thursday, April 29, acknowledging the incident and assuring us that they were looking into the incident. But what about Meredith’s administration? We are disappointed by Meredith’s inability to act. We are disappointed that Meredith has yet to offer an apology to students or a commitment to upholding inclusion on campus. And we are even more disappointed by Meredith’s lack of transparency about how a public incident is being dealt with — especially since that is the main thing students have been asking for.
Because Meredith has been slow to respond, we as student leaders have decided to take initiative. As it states in the Code of Ethics, holding her accountable lies with us. We, the undersigned, believe that this student should not be allowed to hold a leadership position for the 2021-22 academic year. She has exhibited behavior that is clearly a violation of the Code of Ethics. We are calling on the Dean of Students, Ann Gleason, to take immediate action, reprimand this student and issue a statement to the Meredith community acknowledging the incident and informing us of what steps are being taken to address it.
Part of the education process is establishing precedent for dealing with negligent behavior. Education is not simply learning — it is also doing. This student does not seem to be doing the right thing. And unless she can take it upon herself to exhibit changed behavior, she should not be allowed to participate in a leadership role.
If Meredith College truly is committed to change, then they will do what is right. But if they are committed to tradition, they will continue to uphold the legacy of protecting those who pose harm to others. The College owes it to our marginalized and underrepresented peers to protect them for a change.
Caroline E. Bell
Rachel Van Horne
Kiley van Ryn