Letter from the Editorial Board: Current Campus Climate

Editorial Board | The Seahawk

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The following are the opinions of the Editorial Board of The Seahawk, and are not necessarily that of the newspaper’s writers and constituents.

In response to the recent events of hostility on campus surrounding the election and diverse political opinions, The Seahawk’s Editorial Board met Sunday morning to discuss how the administration should best respond to these crises on campus, including the recent event with UNC Wilmington professor Dr. Mike Adams. The Seahawk is aware that the issue regarding Dr. Adams is not an isolated incident on campus and thus we want to open a dialogue over this hostility to ensure that UNCW can be a positive environment for learning and diverse discussion.

Confusion between students, faculty, staff and administration on what exactly is radical free-speech and what constitutes harassment is prevalent across campus; we realize that we as a student body and as a university are in great need of a better understanding of what qualifies as harassment according to the values set by the university. This is not to quiet the voices of those who wish to express their opposing opinions and beliefs, but rather to work toward creating an open and respectful environment here on campus that evokes mutual respect and rejects harassment and hatred.

Specifically, as this story has recently gained traction, Dr. Adams has repeatedly created hostile and toxic learning environments for UNCW students. Most recently, his interaction with a student on campus has led to her transferring away from the university. The Seahawk acknowledges that it is Dr. Adams’ right to voice his concerns, whether they end up being seen as racially charged and homophobic, but we as an organization are personally disconcerted by the administration’s lack of direct response over how its faculty and student body should be expected to ethically approach differences of opinion.

Shortly after Dr. Adams’ actions and statements were being discussed widely on different social media platforms and the campus itself, Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli issued a statement regarding free speech and harassment to the entire student body and faculty in an email. The editorial board and many UNCW students found this email to be confusing, vague and an overall unhelpful response to a critical situation.

UNCW outlines their values in relation to harassment on the Office of the Dean of Students webpage: “The university affirms its desire to maintain a learning and living environment for all students that is free from all forms of harassment. The university is committed to ensuring that all students are treated with dignity and respect.”

We fail to find the correlation between Chancellor Sartarelli’s email and the values placed in the Seahawk Respect Compact and anti-harassment statements. Dr. Adams, as those who have also in the past few weeks attacked the views of others, fails to embody UNCW’s values and has worked adamantly to counter this “learning and living environment.” This inherently calls into question the ability and willingness of administration to implement and encourage the Seahawk Respect Compact and set expectations for faculty to exercise the university’s values.

In light of this confusion, The Seahawk respectfully asks the administration to address the myriad of recently reported cases of harassment directly since these instances further amplify campus polarization. Though the newspaper invites people of all backgrounds, viewpoints and political affiliations to voice their opinions, doing so in an intelligent, respectful manner ultimately helps to foster strong learning environments where differences of opinions can successfully be discussed. We can talk about tough, and divisive content without belittling one another.

Many of us were unsatisfied with Chancellor Sartarelli’s email in response to the multiple acts of harassment and hate that have occurred on campus within the recent few weeks. We as a society have outgrown the days of inaction and need to expect from our authority figures that they will reprimand those who discriminate against others for the color of their skin or for their religious beliefs, especially when this happens all across our campus and affects those of different backgrounds and political affiliations.

By brushing off these issues, the university preserves itself as a business, but does not succeed in forming a strong place of learning.

The Seahawk stands firm in the belief that students deserve to have an administration who will directly address these instances decisively and with assertiveness. We believe the administration does have the greatest intentions for the student body, however, this message is muddled in vague emails and a lack of tangible support seen and felt on campus.

We hold both administration and faculty to the standard of being able to appropriately, respectfully and directly address uncomfortable situations that occur on campus and to also facilitate these conversations accordingly when they arise specifically in the classroom.

UNCW students have a right to stay informed on the happenings of campus, whether they are positive or negative. In regard to harassment, safety and campus climate, we deserve a response from administration that fully informs the student body with clear understandings of where we stand as a university on the lines between free-speech and exercising the Seahawk Respect Compact with pride as a community filled with fellow Seahawks.

And it is with all of this in mind that The Seahawk asks the university to consider finding ways of holding our campus community accountable for our actions with the respect compact in mind without revising the compact. By revising the compact to merely “encourage” these ideals lessens its power and allows for the opportunity for more hostility on campus.

Whether a faculty member frequently uses social media and online forums to degrade a student or a student has their voice silenced in fear that they will be ridiculed for voicing an opinion, the university should be there to stand on the side of open conversations that do not turn into harassment.

If you are looking for an outlet to voice your opinion about issues surrounding our student body, please contact seahawkeditorinchief@gmail.com or find us on social media through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The newspaper is also open to working with the administration in voicing concerns about the campus climate in order to make tangible, positive change at this university for the student body.