In light of the hate crime committed against Gonzaga University’s Black Student Union on Nov. 8, ranking officials collaborated with the Black Student Union (BSU) to host a Town Hall Monday evening addressing concerns voiced by students and members of the club.
The event began at 5:30 and went until 7 p.m. Monday.
2016 graduate of the Gonzaga School of Law, Angela Jones introduced herself as the serving moderator for the Town Hall.
Panelists for the evening consisted of GU President, Thayne McCulloh, Provost and Senior Vice President, Deena González, Vice Provost of Student Affairs, Kent Porterfield, Chief Diversity Officer, Raymond Reyes, Campus Security % Public Safety (CSPS) Director, Becky Wilkey and Crime Prevention and Education Officer, Philip Tyler.
McCulloh started with opening remarks. Thanking the moderator, panelists, community members and BSU students, McCulloh began with an apology for the students impacted by the crime.
“It was vicious, it was deeply racist and when I learned about it late in the afternoon on Nov. 8, I was horrified,” said McCulloh.
He then continued on to remark on the difficulty of 2020 and how police brutality, the pandemic and hate crimes on campus have all been examples of how Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOCs) have been negatively impacted this year.
Closing out, he made a call to action for white people on campus to do better and act in solidarity with people of color.
For the bulk of the forum, members of BSU crafted questions for the panelists to answer.
Important topics such as how CSPS responds to hate crimes to the meaning of solidarity were discussed.
When asked about how the university will take steps to preserve the wellbeing of students of color, Porterfield addressed the shortcomings of not hiring a therapist for students of color sooner, claiming there wasn’t a good excuse for not doing so and apologizing for it.
At 6:45 p.m., the panelists transitioned into the student Q&A session. In the brief time, the panel fielded issues like how the university is going to teach critical race theory and more.
Ending the session, McCulloh said that there is a commitment from the university to create sustained, meaningful change for communities of color on campus.
Though the university staff said they will follow through, not all in attendance felt satisfied by the Town Hall.
"They didn’t give us anything of substance," said student attendee RJ McGee. "Instead of speaking about steps being taken moving forward, they scripted their answers. Instead of saying Black Lives Matter, they dance around the question for four minutes before finally airing the sentiments we were waiting to hear the whole time."
McGee reflected on how he felt after the event going forward as a student of color on campus.
“Frankly, the town hall didn’t do much but irritate me,” McGee said. “The event was seemingly supposed to make me feel better about how the climate is at school, but it didn’t. I’m still scared, I’m still upset, and I’m still at risk on Gonzaga’s campus.”
In an email to the GU community today, Porterfield and Reyes said the unanswered questions from the Town Hall are being addressed and answers to them will be posted on the webpage: www.gonzaga.edu/BSUresponse.
Additionally, a second Town Hall is being planned for early in the spring semester. A date and time are yet to be announced.