Speaking up for community’s sake

By Angela McParland

“We will not be silenced,” reads a poster hanging on a bulletin board outside of Eddie’s Lounge on the second floor of Alliot. The words offer a poignant reminder of hate incidents a year ago and of the protest that followed on campus after the school’s administration failed to respond in a way that many felt was needed.

During this time, many of us felt very stressed with the community. Some people didn’t even recognize it as the welcoming community they knew when they first arrived here.

For many of us, it was the community that drew us to St. Michael’s. When I first visited, everyone I met greeted me with a smile, asked with interest about where I came from, and inquired about what makes me an individual.

The community here is something I love dearly, but I also feel as though I took it for granted during my first two years.
Last fall, I left the comfort of St. Michael’s and traveled 13 time zones away to live in a Japanese college community for four months.There, the Japanese students don’t get to choose where they study abroad, paperwork and applications are regularly lost, and, despite both student and teacher complaints, we only got one day off during the entire 15 week semester.

The international students complained. The Japanese students did not. They accept their situation, no matter how unpleasant, in order to not upset the greater community.

But our community here at St. Michael’s is different. We want people to be accepted and celebrated in their diversity. We want them to feel that their voice matters. And, we want them to have the ability to speak out when they have been let down, and create better change for the future.

Our community openly invites us to voice our opinions and then have those opinions taken into consideration to further improve our community.

Recently, after student backlash about parking tickets last year, our partners at Public Safety removed zones completely. And, even now with more backlash about not being able to find a parking spot, they are still listening to us.

After the protests last year, the administration has been better about defining our community and speaking out against acts of violence both on campus and in the world. The most recent was Dawn Ellinwood’s response to Charlottesville in mid-August. And, as I was helping out with the first year’s orientation, she openly invited anyone who has a different opinion on the matter to start a conversation with her as she said she is interested as to why they think the way they do.

If you feel that for some reason you do not yet have a voice in this community, the Defender staff welcomes you to submit a written piece to bring it to the community’s attention. We will work with you to publish it in the new Voices opinion section of our paper.