Willamette prepares for potential Election Day protests, provides resources for students
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Heightened political tensions surrounding the presidential election has caused concern surrounding potential protests on election night at the Oregon State Capitol, across the street north of Willamette University. On Nov. 3rd, University President Steve Thorsett shared an “election day message”, acknowledging students’ anxieties and reassuring them that, “Willamette’s values remain unchanged and we will continue to move forward together.” On Nov. 2, Willamette shared a link to resources and safety information for students in the daily bulletin, Today@Willamette and again later in the day in an email from Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Landreman.
The page includes information on updated security procedures from Campus Safety in the coming weeks and reminds students that if they see anyone on campus with a weapon they should contact Campus Safety at 503‒370‒6911 immediately and not engage with the individual. Campus Safety should also be contacted in case of any threats or violence. If you become aware of hate groups or “other groups of concern gathering in the area,” contact Landreman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a comment provided via email to the Collegian, Director of Campus Safety Ross Stout said that there have been no changes as a result of COVID-19 to standard shelter-in-place procedures in case of a campus emergency, and reminded students to pay attention to any emails, calls or texts from the Emergency Notification System. When asked about potential long-term plans for ensuring student safety in similar situations, Stout said, “Since we have no indications that there will be political unrest that would endanger students, we have no changes being planned. If the situation were to change, we would respond accordingly.”
In recognition of recent protests and anti-racist movements, the university is providing mental health resources for Black students, and anti-racism resources for white students. There are also more general mental health resources for students experiencing anxiety during this time. The page on the Willamette website acknowledges that: “Our location near the State Capitol affords us the opportunity to witness the democratic freedoms of free speech up close and personal. It is important to understand the very real possibility of the presence of weapons, intimidation and violent tactics that could be employed by some groups at these events. What starts as a peaceful demonstration can erupt with little to no warning and quickly morph into something of greater risk to personal safety.” They do make clear however that Willamette and Campus Safety are in communication with Salem Police and Capitol Police to keep an eye on the situation and potential risks to students.