During Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, students and faculty planned to propose a resolution to provide advanced notice when outside speakers come to campus, but the resolution has been moved to Dec. 10.
Chair of Faculty Senate Jeff Popke said he had heard of a student who had drafted a petition which created conversations amongst faculty.
In an emailed statement to The East Carolinian, Popke said the resolution was not brought up during Tuesday’s meeting.
“So several weeks ago they reached out and said, ‘we’re working on a resolution, we hope we’ll be ready for the agenda,’” Popke said.
An agenda committee sets the agenda for faculty senate meetings two weeks in advance, Popke said. The resolution wasn’t ready at the time which is why it wasn’t formerly an agenda item and would have had to have been brought up under new business, Popke said,
Popke said he doesn’t know what would be in the resolution and thinks they would want to wait for the circulation of the resolution.
“One aspect of it was advance notice for all outside speakers that want to use that free speech area, so part of the concern, I think, was that there wasn’t an advance notice so that other forms of free expression could not have, (or) weren’t aware of and didn’t organize to counter the message of that particular event,” Popke said.
Rosalinda Kowalczewski, a senior anthropology major, said she created a petition after she had gotten a response from Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Involvement and Leadership Erik Kneuhbuel. She said the response didn’t feel adequate enough to impact change on campus that would allow students to have warning when groups come to campus that could be triggering for the campus community.
Kowalczewski said she started the petition because students felt uncomfortable and she had seen the support around the petition for former Interim Chancellor Dan Gerlach after he was placed on administrative leave.
Kowalczewski said she had emailed Kneubuehl about her concerns, and he told her he had seen the exhibit comparing abortion to genocide on Oct. 14 at 7 a.m. She said she was worried about how these images were triggering and wondered how students weren’t given a warning that the Genocide Awareness Project would be on campus.
Many young girls have to have abortions and had to be reminded of it when the group was on campus, Kowalczewski said. She said she had asked members of the group what they would do if they saw someone in distress due to their posters and they told her they would take the person aside and talk to them.
“The counseling center, you have to have almost an emergency to go in so it’s not set up well here so that if there was an issue we would be able to handle it safely and fast and help the person,” Kowalczewski said.
Kowalczewski said she had passed the Genocide Awareness Project while walking on campus in the morning and was given a pamphlet with “obscene” images with no warning. From a distance the sign read “Genocide Awareness” but that didn’t prepare people for the images they were about to see, she said.
Many students live on the West End area of ECU’s campus therefore the area where the Genocide Awareness Project was set up was highly trafficked, Kowalczewski said. Many of her classmates told her they didn’t want to see the images, “felt sick to their stomach” and “uncomfortable,” she said.
“I’ve heard a lot of students say that they were uncomfortable, that (the Genocide Awareness Project) that wasn’t something they wanted to see at the beginning of their morning walking to class, that there was no warning to it,” Kowalczewski said.
This organization has caused disturbances which resulted in the arrests of two people at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kowalczewski said. One protestor was arrested for stealing signs at the group's visit to UNC Chapel Hill on Oct. 21, according to Kowalczewski. The Genocide Awareness Project is disruptive to education and daily life, she said.
If the university doesn’t give warning to students about the organizations visit to campus, there should be counselors set up for students the week the group is on campus, Kowalczewski said. She said, as a student, it is important to fight for change if something upsets the student body as many students were in “distress” due to the group’s visit.
“I feel there are professors and faculty who are very concerned with it but they’ve been trying to work on it for a while but we’re fighting against the law basically,” Kowalczewski said. “Thinking about it, if the school’s going to promote wellbeing and mental health being something very important to them then why, why would they let these things happen.”
Kowalczewski said she spent over an hour talking to the group about issues they were presenting and the information they were sharing was “uneducational.” She said the group brought up religion multiple times during the discussion and that religion shouldn’t be pushed on students.
The comparisson of genocide to abortion was not a “correct correlation,” Kowalczewski said. She said the group was posing their beliefs and agenda on students.
The goal of the petition was to bring it to East Carolina University faculty senate on Tuesday.
English Associate Professor Donna Kain said the faculty’s concern isn’t about the abortion group not being on campus, but about free speech. She said the university isn’t given notice about protestors on campus. The organization selects who they’re going to notify but faculty has to console students upset by the group.
Kain said she believes the organization who decides what groups come to campus should include more faculty members. She said she doesn’t want any speech banned but wearing body cameras and taking pictures of students needs to be “challenged.” She said it is important to notify the university so people are allowed to have a discussion.
“The other part of that is an academic environment is not only about free speech but a free exchange of ideas and if we don’t know what ideas are going to be brought to campus we can’t talk about those ideas and discuss other perspectives,” Kain said.
According to Kain’s understanding, the university has to be notified when an organization comes to campus. The “free speech area” on campus is in front of the Cupola but not big signs are allowed, according to Kain. She said she looked into this in 2015 but the policies have changed.
Kain said the concern was that the organization was not in the “free speech area” but were in the area due to their large posters. She said anything the group uses of ECU, such as their security are paid for by the university.
“But this is a group, The Genocide Project is a group that is known for suing universities and other groups that don’t want to have them doing certain kinds of activities and I believe that that means they sort of negotiate for what they want,” Kain said.
According to Kain, the group notified university members on the Friday before its visit. The group additionally looked at the area before it came to campus, she said.
After the group’s visit to ECU in 2015, Kain said the group had said they weren’t getting in anyone’s way, but Kain said she saw them stepping in people’s way by handing them pamphlets.
Kain said if the group was going to notify some people at ECU, they should have notified everyone within the campus community. Kain said she doesn’t believe the group makes the campus unsafe, because they aren’t violent despite the fact their images are disturbing.