A decision to remove N-word slur from classrooms reversed by Academic Coordinating Commission
Photo Illustration by Oliver Hamlin
By Kayla Sousa
This article is in the process of being updated in order to interview other source mentioned in this story and include their responses.
A decision to remove the N-word slur from classrooms was reversed at an Academic Coordinating Commission meeting on April 30.
Kristen Larson, former faculty senate president and representative for the College of Science and Engineering, resigned in protest from her position during the meeting.
“The Academic Coordinating Commission just demonstrated just how little value we place on the [student] experience, how little privilege we are willing to give up and how little discomfort we are able to tolerate in order to improve their classroom environment,” Larson said.
During the ACC meeting on April 16, Larson proposed a motion to affirm that it’s unacceptable for faculty to say the N-word slur in the classroom, referencing the Constitution of the Faculty of WWU and Faculty Senate Bylaws.
Larson notified the commission chair and reached out to the commission to help write the motion before the commission meeting. Larson’s motion was brought to the commission during the items from the floor session of the meeting. The motion was discussed and passed by a vote of 4-3, according to Levi Eckman, Associated Student vice president of academic affairs and AS student senate chair pro-tempore. The Western Front cannot verify the vote from the ACC meeting minutes because they have not been published online for public view. According to Lizzy Ramhorst, faculty senate parliamentarian, the release of the ACC meeting minutes is temporarily delayed due to the absence of the commission recorder.
“The motion only passed because students voted for it,” Levi Eckman said.
Eckman said the four votes were from three student representatives on the commission and Larson.
The first item of business at the commission meeting on April 30, was to revoke the motion that was passed at the previous meeting. Rescinding the motion would prevent it from heading to faculty senate. This item of business was not published on the Academic Coordinating Commission agenda which is unusual, according to Larson.
Instead, the motion to rescind Larson’s motion was brought to the commission during a board report given by Shelia Webb, chair of the ACC, according to Larson and Eckman.
The Western Front contacted Webb for a comment, Webb was not able to respond in time for print. Her response will be added upon interviewing.
“My frustration is that the executive board of the Academic Coordinating Commission made the decision to bring this up for a vote but did not give us prior notice about it,” Nicole Ballard, AS student senator at-large, said.
Eckman said Larson should’ve been told beforehand as a sign of respect and a courtesy, because she understands the commission’s meeting structure as a former faculty senate president.
“I was at least under the impression that Kristen was given a heads-up that this was happening,” Eckman said. “She received nothing and I think that is really unprofessional.”
Eckman said the board reports are given by an executive member of a committee about their weekly activity from meeting to meeting, and are designed to be informative and not typically utilized to propose motions.
“I think it should’ve been an agenda item instead of in a board report so that people could have prepared,” Eckman said.
Ballard said she found the manner in which the executive board introduced the motion to rescind frustrating because it was put into a board report rather than on the agenda, devaluing all voices in the conversation.
“I would have loved to have brought a new motion forward with new language to be voted on,” Ballard said. “But because there was no communication from the executive board, there was no possibility of that happening.”
Larson said Webb and Steven VanderStaay, vice provost for undergraduate education, told commissioners that Western would be in serious legal trouble if the motion passed at the previous meeting were to head to senate.
“Shared governance and parliamentary procedure were used as weapons bolstered by fear mongering and intimidation,” Larson said. “I am disappointed and ashamed.”
Larson asked Ramhorst if the motion would be on the minutes of the previous meeting. Larson said Ramhorst avoided answering her question.
Larson claims there were private meetings to revoke the motion between the chair and chosen leadership without the rest of the commission.
Ramhorst said although there were enough people for the April 30 meeting to begin, Webb said to wait for more faculty to arrive, according to both Larson and Eckman.
“I was also a little bit confused because I am one of the executive members that should have been in that conversation,” Eckman said.
The vote to revoke Larson’s motion passed, and the only votes against the motion to revoke were from Larson and the three student representatives, according to Eckman and Larson.
“The conclusion to be drawn from these actions is that faculty governance leadership is deeply invested in maintaining the status quo of white supremacy and inflames white fragility to do so,” Larson said.
Larson warns her colleagues in the College of Science and Engineering that their college is now without a representative on the ACC. Larson said she has witnessed the senate and the commission bludgeon people of color, faculty and students, by both word and deed.
“Faculty senate has become where white people tell themselves that everything is fine and that nothing needs to change,” Larson said in a statement. “Think carefully before engaging with a structure that so violently silences the voices we need to hear most at Western.”
This story was corrected on May 8, 2019. The Western Front contacted Webb for a comment, Webb was not able to respond in time for print. Her response will be added upon interviewing.