Students call for accountability and action regarding College Republicans, University responds
A group of 14 students signed off on an email sent to Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Landreman, Willamette University President Stephen Thorsett and Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion Abbas Hill with concerns and calls for action regarding the events of the College Republicans Oct. 19 meeting. The College Republicans hosting of a guest speaker who is part of an organization declared by the [Southern Poverty Law Center] as a hate group led to their disaffiliation at the [Oct. 21] Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) meeting. Willamette University later announced an [investigation].The students’ email, sent Friday, Oct. 29, was responded to by Landreman the night of Monday, Nov. 1.
The email from the students opened saying: “The University’s inaction and complicity in the face of oppressive forces on this campus is deeply disturbing.” They called on the university to take proposed steps to prevent communities from being targeted in the future. First was a demand for accountability for College Republicans officers. The email states that each officer was complicit in the events of Oct. 19 and while they respect the officers rights to an investigation, the “only reasonable determination” is that the College Republicans officers have perpetrated harm and cannot remain in leadership positions. The second demand was for university action plans to combat the transphobia and antisemitism that took place at the meeting, as well as racism, anti queerness and ableism. The email calls for these plans to begin with a statement from Willamette administration taking responsibility, and to include at minimum increased funding, visibility and support for programs and student organizations catered to marginalized students. The email adds: “After the events of last year, we have no confidence whatsoever in the ability of the University conduct process to take equity and marginalization seriously. Rather than punishing those who come forward, the University must take these concerns seriously and provide resources for affected students immediately.” ‘The last year’s events’ presumably refers to the top signer of the email and sender, Zeke Druker (‘24), who was [removed from ASWU last year] following a conduct violation. The third proposed step is a public and accessible townhall for students to voice their concerns. The final demand is for the university to provide a physical on-campus ‘sanctuary’ for Jewish students. The email calls the current religious spaces on campus, Cone Chapel and the Chaplains office, “Christian hegemonic” and says that only a dedicated space can give safety to Jewish students on campus. The email closed saying that if the university will not take action, the responsibility will fall to students.
In their signature, Druker lists themselves as a former senator and general secretary of the Student Solidarity Union (SSU). The email was also signed by: Forrest Derr (‘24), assembly chair of the SSU and witness present at the College Republicans meeting; Ainsley Moench (‘24), senator, logistics secretary of the SSU and witness present at the College Republicans meeting; Cameron Cole (‘23,) senator, communications secretary of the SSU and witness present at the College Republicans meeting; Remy Gottschling (‘24), propaganda secretary of the SSU and witness present at the College Republicans meeting; Inéz Anais Nieves Suárez (‘24), senator; Daniel Smith (‘22), treasurer and co-founder of the Climate Action Alliance and treasurer of the Restorative Justice Coalition; Col Lockard (‘22), former co-president of Rainbow Alliance; Amanda France (‘22), president of the Queer and/or Trans People of Color Association and treasurer of Chinese-Taiwanese Cultural Association; Matt Permut (‘22) CAFES financial officer, political action leader of the growing oaks project; Em Eide (‘22); Lucky Schayngesicht (‘25); Forrest Davis (‘25); Conor Krystad (‘22).
In her response, Landreman disagreed with the statement that university has responded with “inaction and complicity”, reminding the students of the actions she laid out in a campus wide email announcing an [investigation] into the College Republicans Oct. 19 meeting. Landreman told the students that she does not believe this is a failure to take action and that the university could not make decisions about what occurred without hearing from those involved.
Concerning the calls for a physical sanctuary for Jewish students on campus, Landreman said that the new Director of Spiritual and Religious Life, Ineda Adesanya, has been working with the Jewish Student Union to support their efforts in creating a positive experience on campus for Jewish students. Landreman said she has asked Adesanya to reach out to better understand the concerns brought forward by the students.
Landreman stated that she is committed to addressing antisemitism, transphobia, along with the broader issues of racism, anti queerness, ableism and supporting the communities on campus that experience their impact. She agreed with the students that no one should experience retaliation for expressing concerns, but added :”In addition, no one who raises concerns or who does not like the outcome of a process should resort to bullying, harassment, harm to reputation or other policy violations in the name of their cause.” Landreman expressed concern that the cycle of harm has continued, and urged the students to discourage harmful behavior if they hear of it happening. Landreman said that while it’s understood that not everyone is going to be satisfied with the review process, it is the university’s responsibility to provide a fair and unbiased process for all students. Landreman closed by saying that she appreciates the students' passion and hopes that through the outlined actions, the community will grow and learn together.