Campus Diversity Workshop
The workshop discussing campus diversity will take place in two sessions on March 31
Where: the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Rooms 301-302
When: from 5-6:30 p.m. and 7-8:30 p.m.
A email sent by student leaders to President Paul Ferguson was the catalyst for a campus-wide email sent Wednesday, addressing the selection of this year’s Johns R. Emens Outstanding Senior Award winner.
The email's author, Student Government Association Chief of Staff Chris Taylor, along with SGA President Nick Wilkey, met Tuesday afternoon with Dean of Students Kay Bales and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Gibson to discuss the email, which was also sent to Bales and Director of Student Life Jennifer Jones-Hall. The email highlighted the concerns and complaints of many students.
Those concerns include the need for
- An open forum to discuss race relations.
- A review of the selection process for this and other awards.
- An investigation of the Office of Student Life’s “advising practices and workplace culture.”
The controversy stems from comments made two years ago by this year’s winner, who at the time owned a Confederate flag. She no longer owns the flag.
Wilkey said students involved in the Office of Student Life — including student government and the Big Four: the Black Student Association, Spectrum, the Latino Student Union and the Asian American Student Association— had presented complaints to Wilkey and Taylor about threats of funding cuts for moving away from the university’s message.
One of those examples was present in the email to Ferguson and his administration; Taylor highlighted a comment that Jones-Hall sent in an email: “The Big 4 are not making comments [about the Emens Outstanding Senior Award] because the[y] are funded through the University and so is SGA. I would be careful not to bite the hand that feeds you. My two cents.”
Early on Wednesday, Jones-Hall apologized about her statement to those involved but has not returned media calls regarding the comment.
Bales said any comment of that nature is serious.
“I think our goal is certainly to be transparent, but most of all our job is to be supportive of students and to help them process through challenges that they are having. It's not the university's position to ever threaten the funding of any of our student organizations,” Bales said in an interview with Newslink and WCRD.
Although Wilkey and Taylor are leaders in SGA, they said their email did not represent the viewpoint of the entire organization. Both had heard complaints from other students involved in the Office of Student Life, but previously they hadn’t experienced anything firsthand.
“I didn’t want anyone to have to go through the kind of decisions that we had to go through as an executive board,” Wilkey said. “This [the email] just to protect the integrity of the organizations that I was a part of. I don’t want people to feel like they can’t do anything or that they’ll suddenly lose their funding for the next year.”
Individually, Wilkey and Taylor plan on following through on some of the plans made in their meeting with Bales and Gibson, and encourage other Ball State students to do the same.
“I think that is our responsibility as students to make sure that we hold them [administrators] accountable,” Taylor said. “And it’s our responsibility as alumni and members of the Ball State community to hold them accountable to make sure that there is some kind of review — whether it is independent or not — of the Office of Student Life.”
Since the meeting, the university has already begun addressing the issues related to the Emens Award selection process and race relations.
“We are listening to the conversation and engaging with students on the issue surrounding the selection of the John R. Emens Outstanding Senior Award. ... We do understand this year's selection has sparked important conversations beyond simply this year's recipient,” Ferguson and Bales said in their joint statement.
Taylor and Wilkey said university vice presidents were already working on a review and movement toward greater transparency in the John R. Emens Outstanding Senior Award before they had their conversation with Bales and Gibson.
The conversation on race at Ball State was originally intended to be led by student government in an open forum. After meeting with Bales and Gibson, Wilkey said student government is moving forward with the workshop scheduled for next Tuesday evening in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center.