Although the first attempt at dialogue went disastrously, students continued an attempt at dialogue with the administration. The first student had been bullied, but hopes were high that if, perhaps, administration was approached directly the result might be more profitable.
Five seniors, involved in various activities and organizations across campus, all exemplary students, decided to try to schedule a meeting with Dr. Whitlock and Dr. Norman. This group intentionally included two SGA representatives. The goal of this meeting was to bring to the attention of the administration what was perceived to be concerns of the student body. The group did not want their questions answered, but rather, intended to suggest an avenue which could put the administration directly into dialogue with the students. The unrest among the student body, which they sensed, was great enough to warrant direct address by the administration. Basically the students wanted to say, "You've got to let the students know what is going on or they're going to riot."
This sentiment was not unwarranted. There had already been proposed ideas for peaceful protests among the students. But in favor of moving forward in unity, these five decided to try to make ways for dialogue.
In preparation for this meeting the five students reviewed the 2020 plan as well as Dr. Whitlock's 2010 convocation address. Because they wanted to discuss the future of the University, they arrived knowing both what the administration had already presented as their vision for the future, as well as the concerns of the student body.
This student group wished to propose an open forum where students would be empowered to ask administrators about their concerns. Furthermore, they explained, this forum could have pre-selected questions, submitted by students in advance to an email account created for this event. This way the students could get the answers they wanted while the administration could maintain the decorum of a well-organized official event, they thought.
But before this meeting could take place, the students were forced to reschedule two or three times. Granted, it is hard to get seven busy schedules to line up. But when the time was finally set, it had not been rescheduled to a more opportune time to give them plenty of time to talk, but was scheduled for the 10:00 hour (which is free because of chapel), meaning the students had about 45 minutes to present weeks' worth of preparation.
The meeting began with the students individually introducing who they were, what they did around campus, and why they were there. They talked openly about students' concerns with the state of the University, each of them having prepared a part of the presentation.
Dr. Whitlock and Dr. Norman wanted to simply answer these concerns, but the students had not come for answers. They knew that the student body needed to hear these answers for themselves. They came in solidarity with the student body as their representatives asking for openness.
Dr. Whitlock and Dr. Norman spent most of the meeting pushing the responsibility for communication back on to the students asking things like, "Why aren't you dispelling these rumors?"
But these students did not know the answers to the questions the student body was asking. How were they supposed to stop rumors when there were no answers to be had?
Why was the administration's secrecy suddenly the burden of these students?
Besides, this meeting was not about answers. It was about empowering students in a formal venue. But the overarching feeling the students were confronted with in the meeting was, "Why aren't you doing something about this?"
In the final five minutes, three students clarified what seemed to be a misunderstanding on the part of the administrators, explaining that they were not SGA representatives (the first thing which they had said in the meeting). From there, the meeting went totally downhill.
"Who are you again?"
"We're here to represent the student body."
"You're not in SGA; you don't represent anybody."
It seemed as if any communication made throughout the meeting had been completely undermined. The students left feeling blown off, as if, because they were mostly humanities majors, they somehow only represented a small sect of the school.
Each of them left feeling like they had no say in the future of their own institution and that the administration did not care.
At 12:44 PM that day, David Whitlock tweeted:
Click here to read about the administration's little P.R. event, ostensibly to address students' concerns.