STATESBORO — Georgia Southern University students expressed their opinions at the GS open forum with President Marrero on Wednesday in the Russell Union regarding the response of the University to the book-burning event that occurred last Wednesday.
While 500 people were expected for the event in the Russell Union ballroom, but around 1,000 ended up showing up, with extra chairs having to be brought in to accommodate such a large crowd size, and the beginning of the forum push back 20 minutes.
The event made for a tense environment, as students seemed upset as President Kyle Marrero cited the inclusive excellence plan as the University’s reaction to the book burning that happened, instead a code of conduct punishment.
“It is unfortunately the same answer, and with [the code of conduct] and with that with free expression,” Marrero said. “The First Amendment of the Constitution overrides that…as a state university which is governed by the First Amendment.”
One student stood up, while a concerned parent was in the process of asking a question, and said, “No direct answers, no direct answers, I need a direct answer!”
A concerned parent asks a question. pic.twitter.com/0GTCXKw14B— Nathan Woodruff (@Nw19982) October 17, 2019
Tyler Tyack, speaker of the Armstrong/Liberty campus student government senate, asked about the University’s position on the book burning incident.
“Does the university believe that the actions that were taken were racist? Does it condemn the racist actions or do they just condemn the action,” Tyack asked.
Marrero’s response was met with cheers and claps from the crowd.
“I wish there was an answer because I don’t know the intent of the actions other than ignorance, other than foolishness, other than not having an idea of what in essence that they were doing. But I don’t know [the students], I don’t know their heart, I don’t know if they are. But the actions themselves are repulsive, and symbolic of historic reflection of intolerance, and yes, of racism."
After the event, students also expressed their feelings with reporters.
Sheldon Brown senior recreational therapy major, said he wanted more concrete action.
“What the President said did make me feel better,” he said. “But it didn't completely answer any and every question that me including all the other concerned individuals on this campus had. Some of the questions ran in circles, and some of the responses ran in circles as well… I was looking for him to say that [diversity and inclusion plans] have been set in stone.”
Mackenzie Miller, junior fashion merchandising and management major, said that FYE faculty was overworked, and that the time allotted for FYE classes was not enough.
“How can you expect advisers who are overworked and sophomore to senior students who are 19 to 22 years old in two 50 minute classes to unpack white privilege, xenophobia, homophobia, trans-phobic ablest views all in two 50 minute classes when some people are so closed off, and they don't even want to listen anyway,” Miller said. “How can we expect to fully address these issues when it's really only being included in FYE?”
Emily Zaneski sophomore history and arabic major, said that FYE should be for all students, not just freshmen.
“We have to expand some outside of the classroom,” she said. “Upperclassmen are equally as racist, as outwardly xenophobic as homophobic as well as the freshman. This shouldn’t just be an FYE thing, it should be open to all people on campus.”
Zaneski also said that Crucet cancelling her speech set a future precedent to not allow speakers, based on the controversial subject matters that they discuss.
“My concern is they cancelled Crucet going to Armstrong for unforeseen circumstances,” Zaneski said. “Are we just going to not allow all speaker who talks about stuff like white privilege, who talks about how not all Muslims are terrorists, about LGBTQ discrimination, tough topics that people need to understand.”
Nathan Woodruff, The George-Anne Managing News Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Davon Johnson, The George-Anne News Reporter, email@example.com
A list of questions put to President Marrero, and a list of his answers can be found here.