An Open Letter to the Administrators
From Student Body President Pax Lloyd-Burchett
I am beyond frustrated with most all of you. Upon writing this, I just received a petition from the Students with Disabilities Coalition, and their concerns reminded me why I started doing this. They need something necessary for their being here, and they can’t find it in you. Some of which, you would deem impossible; other of which, you won’t try because equity has become a buzzword which you have stopped believing is practically possible.
It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that you’ve lost the trust of students. I know that’s not what you’ve set out to do, but no enterprising student with even the slightest bit of hindsight would ever put full faith in this administration. That’s something that I hope we can try to change by working together. Part of my job is telling students that they can trust the administration, that even though they can at times be far too adult or a bit too self-important, they are good people. I know you are good people, but I can’t tell them to trust you, because I have no reason to believe they can. Community Safety and the issue surrounding Milyon’s treatment in the Quest are the two issues causing massive division at this moment.
Milyon: I get along with Milyon, and he hasn’t harmed me personally, but the community is rightfully uncomfortable with his presence and his power. I understand that past harms aren’t a fireable offense, but your letting the accusations posed in the Quest lay unaddressed speaks volumes to how much you really value the student voice. Despite the communal uneasiness, you were appointed to work on Nigel’s replacement committee. If concerns are brought to you, the way to make students feel heard is to face them collectively, not let them sit.
Community Safety: Gary accomplished what he was brought on this campus to do: reduce the presence and danger of hard drugs on campus. It’s likely that his presence here has or will save actual student lives—that doesn’t absolve him of the harm he has caused to students. Community Safety as a whole seems to think about naloxone as the sole axis for harm reduction. Individual CSOs have repeatedly come to me with ideas about bettering the safety of our campus, but have consistently run headfirst into Reed’s bureaucracy.
Practical safety, the lives that have been hypothetically saved, means less than the fear and distrust you have actually inspired in students. Maybe it’s because trust and respect matter so much to me, but I can tell you that optics are vital. If you make a mistake and profile a single student, maybe you get away with it. If you do that to three students, even if it’s an honest mistake, but the students felt profiled, it matters. Your profiling becomes the reality for that student and their friends: we aren’t welcome here. Students could use CSOs as a resource, but right now they are little more than friendlier cops without guns. It doesn’t matter if you don’t preferentially give AODs out to students of color (and I’m really doubtful of your numbers there), it matters how students feel. It doesn’t help that CSOs are understaffed and overworked, a combination which is guaranteed to increase the number of situations in which their implicit bias becomes the deciding factor.
I’m just disappointed. I’ve told so many people so many good things about all of you, and I believe them. But with this letter, and how I’ve seen students treated over my 4.5ish semesters here, I also believe that you need to stop the safe, complacent, political bullshit. The work is hard, but the work is worth doing. It’s worth being self-effacing to make this a better place. I’ve seen Bruce, and Jamila, and Santi, and Ruby, and Sandy, and Tara, and Dayspring, and Jamila, and Jamila, and Jamila do that over and over again. We’ve lost so many of the people that students can actually talk to. I know this will be a blip in the college’s history, but for the love of God, that blip is my whole time here. The director of counseling being gone for a semester is not the end of the world for the institution, but the confusion resulting from that position being unfilled may cause students to end their time here. I came in at the tail end of what felt like one war, and now it seems like another one is just about at our gates. Not because of something the students did, but because of the things you all have let slip.
I know what you will say to this. I know you will tell me, as you have before, that there are processes in place to address these issues, and change takes time. Obviously. Please stop using that as an excuse to do less, to not do everything you can to protect and empower the students here. I have two exquisite examples of what dedicated staff members look like: Tara Sonali Miller and Ruby Joy White. They do the work. Every day. Many of the qualified staff of color we have attracted stay in spite, and not because of, the institutional climate. When was the last time a student wanted to talk to you about anything other than business? When someone really wanted to spend time with you? And you said yes?
I’ve tried being nice and sweet and gentle and kind, but I’m tired. Not of this job, not of this school, but of what you all have decided is your minimum effort. To keep things the same, to let vital positions go unfilled, to treat this like a job and not a home. If I’ve done nothing, let me be a face. I know most of you pretty well, and I value those relationships and hope you do too. So don’t picture a faceless student who’ve you never met when you think about the students you’re hurting, think about me. The choices you’re making aren’t making it hard for some theoretical student to be here. They are making it hard for me. It is hard for me here because of the choices you’ve made. Not in a way that’s solvable in a conversation, but in a way that requires open doors, tangible actions, and a willingness to change not just this school but yourselves. We don’t want the administration who filed NCOs to have no contact with the solution to the reason they filed them. We want you to be better. I need you to do better.