Westminster students use silence to gain voice
A group of about 15 Westminster College students sat in the center of campus Wednesday with duct tape on their mouths and hot sun bearing down on their heads.
The "rally for representation" was a response to the private college's recent decision to remove student body president Nick Raoux, overriding the student government's decision to not impeach him for attending a college-sponsored event while drunk. Administrators decided to remove him based on the school's student code of conduct and disciplinary policy.
Organizers said the rally wasn't planned to protest Raoux's removal by administrators but to react to what it said to students about the impact of their voices.
"It kind of showed us that we don't have as much power as we really thought that we do," said Kailey Kornhauser, 20, who organized the event as a member of the Revolutionary Students Union club on campus.
Students at the rally feel their voice was dismissed and that the dismissal reflected how administrators view students' opinions on a broader level, she said.
"We're just arguing that we should have more of a voice on campus. We want to work with administration, faculty and staff to better the college; we don't want to be against them," Kornhauser said. "When I got to school here I noticed pretty quickly that it was kind of administration vers[us] students, and that's not how it should be."
Some students felt that attitude was highlighted when only a paragraph-long statement was posted on the student government's website about their president's removal, and later when an associate provost emailed all undergraduates instructing any students contacted by the media to refer reporters to the university's Office of Communications.
But college officials said they did not intend for an email to be sent to students and that it wasn't meant to be a "gag order."
Karnell Black, the assistant director of student involvement and orientation at the college, said at the rally that students' opinions are respected and supported.
"We love for our students to share their voices and concerns," Black said. "I would say it would be unlike Westminster for them not to be able to do that."