Texas State students and faculty members participated in an open dialogue with selected university officials at the Bobcat’s United Round Table hosted by Student Government on Monday, Nov. 28.
“Round Table gives students the opportunity to sit down with the administration and have their questions, comments and concerns addressed directly,” said Colton Duncan, political science junior and director of programs & marketing for student government. “It offers a service that other universities may not have. When I first got here I was very surprised at how engaged the faculty and administration are with student life, and how much they care about the wellbeing of students.”
Notable attendees included President Denise Trauth, Provost Eugene Bourgeois, Attorney for Students Shannon Fitzpatrick and Vice President for Student Affairs Joanne Smith. The event was likewise attended by university officials from Athletics, Transportation & Parking Services, Housing & Residential Life and the Student Health Center, as well as representatives from on-campus dining facilities.
Round Table takes place once every semester to facilitate open dialogue between the student body and the administration. Monday night’s event distinguished itself from previous Round Tables in that many of the people in attendance arrived with the intention of addressing concerns specific to minority groups at Texas State.
“I came to follow up on a previous meeting we had with administration a few weeks ago,” said Natasha Edwards, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Texas State. “It was similar, but much smaller. I wanted to follow up on further dialogue.”
The discussions held at President Trauth’s and Provost Bourgeois’ table were focused on issues involving minority student groups, including minority representation on campus, the frequency with which minority faculty members are hired and the recent petition to have Texas State University officially designated as a Sanctuary Campus.
“I’m here on behalf of my organization, to support the petition to make this a Sanctuary Campus,” said Julia Estrada, musical theater senior and president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. “As a Latino-serving institution devoted to diversity, it should be our objective to represent all students, including undocumented ones.”
The petition itself focuses on ensuring the future of students whose college education has been provided for by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, an immigration law enacted by the Obama administration.
“DACA students receive support from the national government to pursue higher education,” Estrada said. “To receive DACA status, students have to have a clean record and are fingerprinted, so universities have a list of DACA students who go there. If the upcoming presidential administration comes after undocumented students for deportation, we want to know that the university will protect the names of those students.”
Also in attendance were members of the Student Community of Progressive Empowerment, as well as Benjamin Swenson-Weiner communication studies graduate student, who wrote the first draft of the Sanctuary Campus petition.
“People who are here illegally might be in danger of having their DACA status revoked by the incoming executive administration; we want to make sure those individuals are protected,” Swenson-Weiner said. “This petition calls for protecting vulnerable populations; that wording was left vague for a reason. Protecting undocumented students could be the first step in creating a safe haven, but it won’t be the last.”
The petition asks that the university refuse to release student information. However, the Sanctuary Campus designation is not a legal status, so the ultimate effectiveness of the measure has been called into question. Be that as it may, the spirit behind the petition remains relevant, Weiner said.
“Coming here was a way to humanize the petition, to provide faces, to demonstrate that we’re willing to have dialogue with the administration,” Weiner said.