On Tuesday, Dec. 6, members of the Texas State University community assembled outside of President Denise Trauth’s office in the JC Kellam building for a protest in solidarity the feeling that voices are not being heard by university leaders.
The protest was organized as a die-in, but quickly resulted in a dialogue after Trauth came out of her office to engage with students and faculty. Students voiced their concerns to the president regarding the volatile campus atmosphere they are feeling and her approach to protecting their safety and standing up for diversity.
“At what point do you decide something is going on, and how many students is it going to take for you to decide that there is actually an issue going on,” asked a student.
In response, President Trauth asked the specificity of the issues that people were concerned about.
Several students articulated that they feel unsupported by Trauth due to the lack of her presence at events, especially those hosted by minorities. Upon hearing those concerns, Trauth said, “I pledge I will come to events.”
Rodrigo Osorio, political science senior, said it’s the symbolic gesture that will make students feel that the president is on their side.
“Come to Black Coalition meetings; come to SCOPE meetings; come to these meetings where people are actually feeling the heat, and have been burned, so you can see how it really affects our lives,” Osorio said.
Osario said that Trauth stepping out of her office to hear students’ concerns was the first step.
“Next year is a new year, and next year might be a horrible year for some of us, but we want you to be there in presence,” Osorio said. “We don’t want you to be up here on the tenth floor looking down on us. We want you to be (at events), because it’s (students) that you are here for.”
Another student brought up the fear she has for her wife’s safety after the the controversial fliers were posted calling to “torture those deviant university leaders spouting off all this diversity garbage.”
“When I am going to a university where my wife is teaching a class on diversity, and I don’t hear anything from the leadership, that is gravely concerning to me,” she said. “It would be hugely beneficial, at least for myself, to hear more about how proactive you either are or have been on these issues and how you will be moving forward,” she said.
Trauth announced that her highest priority on the writers behind the fliers is finding them, and she will not “disturb that investigation.”
“I think it’s very important that the person or persons who did that, be found and prosecuted,” Trauth said.
Skyller Walkes, associate director of disability services, vocalized the vulnerability of diverse faculty, including herself, as the investigation for the fliers’ proceeds.
“We remain vulnerable with an ellipsis behind it until then. We don’t know what the ‘until then’ will bring, but we are fearful that it could be augmented after January 20,” Walkes said. “Not because of the politician, but because of the political climate and the unveiling of bigotry and racism beyond the systemic approach of application in institutions that we are encountering on a regular basis.”
Beyond understanding of the university’s core values and heightened police patrol, Walkes questioned how the university plans to proactively ensure the safety of each individual.
“We have students that are feeling like they can’t trust our leadership, and frankly if I may, they can’t trust you. We, (faculty) know what you do, and we know what you’ve done, but (students) need that reassurance,” Walkes said. “It’s going to take a little bit more, I think, than the formalization of an email or letter.”
As far as moving forward after a volatile season, Trauth invited members to take advantage of what the university is already pursuing.
“We are doing a host of things. For example, eight times a year, I have open meetings with students. So I would invite you next semester to come to one of those,” Trauth said. “What I can assure you, is that as we make decisions, we have the best interest of the university community.”
Katie Burrell also contributed to this article.