Three senators resign: administration accused of discrimination

Three senators resign: administration accused of discrimination

Nathan Tolfa
News Editor

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At last Monday’s ASWC Senate meeting, ASWC Campus Relations Director Eryn Wells, First-year Class President Jenna Gelinas, and Residential Hall Representative Nati Yitayew resigned from ASWC Senate. Following their resignation, ASWC asked all administration present at the meeting — including Joel Perez — to leave, and held a closed door meeting with students and members of the public.

Wells announced her resignation a little over an hour into the meeting. In her letter of resignation, which has been printed in full below, Wells writes, “I have reached a point where, due to many interactions that I and many students have had with certain administrators within the Leadership Experience and Programming (LEAP) Office, I feel hypocritical and unethical working for an organization which I feel does not have the best interest of, not only myself, but also the students which I and this organization serve in mind … I cannot, in good faith, remain complicit in this clear violation of student rights.”

“I hope everyone is as angry and distraught as I am right now,” said Gelinas. “I want to be able to formulate sentences right now . . . I’m not happy with the way that Eryn feels and the fact that Nati has left as well. I think that, as administrators, you guys should feel like you are serving the students here. Everyone chose to come to this college, and the fact that they’re feeling the way they are is awful. I can’t even formulate sentences right now, but I’d like to announce that I’m going to be resigning as well.”

Student Body Representative Grace Reeder and Secretary Hannah Martin spoke as well. “I would just like to say that it’s really upsetting to me that we are losing Director Wells and Senator Yitayew over this because they are both amazing members of this committee,” said Reeder.

“I am having trouble forming words,” said Martin. “I am really, deeply upset that this has affected people that I care so strongly about and have worked professionally with … I guess all I can say is if you don’t see the problem, use your privilege [and] change it.”

After around 20 minutes of debate, ASWC Senate agreed on a motion to hold a meeting closed to administration, and after ten minutes of internal discussion, would open the forum to students and members of the public present at the meeting.

The ASWC meeting was called to order at 7:06 p.m. and was adjourned at 11:36 p.m, meaning the meeting lasted four and a half hours in total — almost three hours longer than the previous week’s meeting.

The Quaker Campus fully intends to follow up on this story next week.

Whittier College Community,

I’d like to announce that I am formally resigning from my position as the ASWC Campus Relations Director. I have reached a point where, due to many interactions that I and many students have had with certain administrators within the Leadership Experience and Programming (LEAP) Office, I feel hypocritical and unethical working for an organization which I feel does not have the best interest of, not only myself, but also the students which I and this organization serve in mind. This is an issue I began to recognize last year as the Social Justice Coalition Representative, however, I personally felt as though there were not sufficient examples for me to speak on the matter. I am realizing now, as I interact more with LEAP and witness more prejudice taking place, that there is a clear pattern of extreme bias exhibited from certain administrators within the LEAP office towards students. I cannot, in good faith, remain complicit in this clear violation of student rights.

When I wrote the Student Bill of Rights, I did so with the intention of keeping the most vulnerable students represented and protected within an environment where they are often overlooked. It is extremely frustrating, but also embarrassing, that an institution which prides itself on uplifting students of color, has administrators who, through intentional or unintentional

biases, are making students not only feel unsafe, but also that they will not be believed when they point out these prejudices. 

I would like to end with this quote by Zora Neale Hurston, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” I will not be silent anymore. Thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to serve as your representative on ASWC Senate for the past 2 years, I have enjoyed my time on the table. My position as a member of ASWC Senate does not dictate my level of student involvement and I will continue to work on projects that I have started and advocate for students as I have since my First-Year here. If I can be of any assistance during this transition, I will be available, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Eryn Wells ‘19

 

Dear First Year Students,

I am proud to have been elected as President to represent our class, but what I am most proud of is to be seen as a peer to students, and a voice at this college. At Monday’s Senate meeting, I resigned from my position as First Year President following the resignation of Director Eryn Wells and Senator Nati Yitayew. I apologize that I left this position unannounced, but with this official resignation letter, I hope to shed light on the issues of which I resigned for.

As a first-year student, often times we have questions that we have a hard time finding the ways in which to answer them. The college experience is new for us, and I was elected with the promise to help you all assimilate and find your way through this campus. I was eager to learn about LEAP, the OEI, and many other programs and offices, and how I could help you all get involved. My goal was to make this campus, our years here, and our college experience the best possible.

After Monday’s meeting and hearing about the injustices within these administrations, I feel as though I cannot keep my promises to you as a member of AWSC. The dishonesty of the administration runs deep, and I cannot be content as a member of an organization with ties to the accused. I was elected to represent my constituents, and I feel as though I can do more for my peers outside the walls of ASWC. I know now that I need to take a step back, watch, and listen from an outside perspective. A quote I feel that explains this better is: “If you have the strength to speak, you should have the courage to listen.” - Nishan Panwar.

From the strength and courage of Rudy Marquez, Eryn Wells, Nati Yitayew, and so many other students that have been effected, I have decided to sit back and listen. And with the information gained, I can do a better job to represent you in the future.

Although I have left my position, the injustices brought up on Monday are my focus right now and with the support and bravery of so many students here, we are fighting so that our voices are heard.

My time on Senate was temporary, but my devotion to the students and this college are permanent. 

Jenna Gelinas ‘21 

 

Students,

In light of the statements shared at the ASWC Senate meeting earlier this week, we as Campus Life would like to reiterate our commitment to hearing student voices. We want to provide opportunities for students to share their questions and concerns. Additionally, we hope to provide as many spaces as possible for this to happen and welcome any student feedback and insight on how we may be able to provide this outlet.

Know that the Campus Life team is available to support you and feel free to reach out to any of us if we can be of assistance.  Additional resources including campus policies, reporting forms, and other important information can be found here: https://www.whittier.edu/studentlife/policies

Sincerely,

Housing & Residential Life

Leadership Experience and Programs (LEAP)

Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI)