So I went to the Town Hall Meeting this evening at Davis in Freeborn Hall. The livestream is here if you’re interested in seeing a good chunk of it. And while I won’t summarize what happened, I think it’s worth sharing an interesting contrast I kept noticing repeatedly, as students got up to ask questions, and the panelists (Chancellor Katehi, Provost Hexter, VC Fred Wood, and a representative from the UCPD) attempted to answer. Here is the basic gist of it, with some version of this same exchange happening over, and over, and over again.
Panel: We all feel terrible about what happened.
Student(s): We want action/transparency. What are your concrete plans for change/justice?
Panel: There is a process already in place/there is an independent investigation. This is all being reviewed. Our findings will be made public, and we will keep the lines of communication open as we move forward.
Student(s): That’s ridiculous administrator-speak. You have so blatantly failed us that we can’t possibly believe your “findings,” because we don’t trust your “process.” The only way we will trust your process is if you actually involve us in it, and if you let us shape the process, so that it becomes our process too.
Except that nobody actually said that last part. There were all sorts of expressions of dissatisfaction from the audience with various lukewarm answers by the panel, but nobody actually pointed out the big elephant in the room: that the top-down, top-secret, and independent ideas of process held by the panelists are clearly in direct opposition to the students’ bottom-up, grassroots, and inclusive ideas of process.
This seems like a pretty big impasse. As my grandma would have said, “That’s a head-scratcher!” I wish someone had asked a question about this obvious disconnect and how to handle it. I would have liked to hear the answer to that one.