Students demand transparency at rally

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Students demand transparency at rally

Concerned representatives from various student organizations spoke during a rally for administration accountability on April 20.

Concerned representatives from various student organizations spoke during a rally for administration accountability on April 20.

Fernando Jimenez/Guilfordian

Concerned representatives from various student organizations spoke during a rally for administration accountability on April 20.

Fernando Jimenez/Guilfordian

Fernando Jimenez/Guilfordian

Concerned representatives from various student organizations spoke during a rally for administration accountability on April 20.

“Show me what democracy looks like,” called out a student at the head of the group.

“This is what democracy looks like,” we chanted together, marching across campus with signs in hand.

Last Wednesday, April 20, students marched from Founders Hall to the Meadowfed Farm Lunch held on Guilford College’s farm in a rally for accountability and transparency.

While progress has been made with the initiatives student organizers in Integrity for Guilford set out last semester, many changes have only been surface level. There is still a widespread sense that Guilford lacks financial transparency and accountability to its students regarding its social justice values.

This, in its essence, is what students and alumni were protesting. It is time for change.

“I was at the rally Wednesday representing Concerned Alums for Guilford because we are in solidarity with the students of Guilford,” said Alyzza May ‘10. “Money is being used against students. … (Our concerns are) all connected, and so we are standing together, more powerful when unified, to demand and make change at Guilford.”

The rally itself was organized by a coalition of student activist organizations and clubs, specifically Integrity for Guilford, Students for Justice in Palestine, Pride, Queer People of Color, Blacks Unifying Society, Hispanos Unidos de Guilford and Latinx Community.

While the event itself started as a show of solidarity against House Bill 2, the focus expanded to include many of the other issues present at Guilford.

“I worry about people not understanding the benefits of collaborative work, and just seeing this as an array of unconnected movements,” said Layla Rafaoui, senior and president of SJP. “When paying attention to finances and paying attention to the marginalization of the people we are talking about, they easily fit together.”

With regard to specific issues, the intersectional coalition called for the addressing of the following problems: limited support for transgender students, students of color, undocumented students and Palestinian students; investment of the endowment in fossil fuels, private prisons and the state of Israel; College employees paid below a living wage and lack of sensitivity with sexual assault education.

For trans students, the College has made surface-level efforts to assist them by doing things like ensuring gender-neutral bathrooms  exist on campus but has still done very little support their safety and well-being in our community.

Additionally, there has been a lack of transparency with the reductions to the Ramallah scholarships for Palestinian students as well as scholarships for undocumented students.

These issues are ones that have Guilford’s values of stewardship, integrity, diversity and community at their cores. At the very least, the College leadership needs to be more open with the community about the financial decisions that affect everyone here.

While it is understandable given our current budget situation that adjustments would be made, Guilford needs to remain mindful of which groups it is pushing to the side and which groups it is supporting in making these adjustments.

“These are the lives and safety of our students,” said junior and student body president Molly Anne Marcotte. “The administration needs to approach these concerns urgently and compassionately. It’s time to rise up and interrupt until the (systems of) marginalization are fully dismantled. Continual accountability is essential.”

The rally concluded with a conversation in the Bayard Rustin Center that was open to the public, during which it was suggested that negotiations with administration take place only in open and public spaces moving forward. I think this is an excellent way to engage the whole community in this movement, not just those already passionate about it, and I hope they will follow this model.

There have also been discussions on how the movement can better serve its mission of intersectional justice, specifically addressing the experiences of students with mental health issues and students with different abilities. Everyone should continue to challenge the movement to include everyone in its efforts.

The coalition will be releasing a list of demands as well as an action plan soon, and I sincerely hope the administration will listen to and collaborate with these student leaders.

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