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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Letter draws Red Square protest

Sophomore Felicia Jarvis (center) talks to senior Michael Buckner (left) about the email President Bruce Shepard sent to the student body. Community member Reese Semanko (right) holds a sign protesting Shepard on Monday, Feb. 8 in Red Square. // Photo by Christina Becker Sophomore Felicia Jarvis (center) talks to senior Michael Buckner (left) about the email President Bruce Shepard sent to the student body. Community member Reese Semanko (right) holds a sign protesting Shepard on Monday, Feb. 8 in Red Square. // Photo by Christina Becker
Sophomore Felicia Jarvis (center) talks to senior Michael Buckner (left) about the email President Bruce Shepard sent to the student body. Community member Reese Semanko (right) holds a sign protesting Shepard on Monday, Feb. 8 in Red Square. // Photo by Christina Becker

With a large cutout of President Bruce Shepard’s face in hand, three protesters gathered in Red Square on Monday, Feb. 8, to voice objections to an email sent by Shepard regarding the need for a larger Ethnic Student Center space.

At the small protest, Felicia Jarvis, a sophomore in the Fairhaven program, passed out handouts outlining what she saw as demeaning and unfair language within Shepard’s email.

“The email that Bruce Shepard sent out to every single student on Western’s campus was passive-aggressive, petty and reflected his internalized racial superiority,” Jarvis said.

On the back of the handout read an alternative version, which, Jarvis said, was the “true” meaning behind Shepard’s email.

The handout paraphrased Shepard’s email, reading that, “most of the content in this email should be sent exclusively to students and organizations to whom the Ethnic Student Center rebuild concerns.”

The student handout indicated a “passive aggressive” undertone to the way Shepard communicated about the lack of available space for a newstudent center.

Students filtered through Red Square during the protest and commented on the email sent by Shepard on Friday, Feb 5. The email responded to the lack of space for the Ethnic Student Center and addressed a lack of funding for a new building.

Junior Nick Vitalis, journalism major who identifies as an ethnic student of Japanese and Mexican background, said he feels like a new center would be too costly and believes that there might be alternatives to looking for more space.

“If you feel it’s condescending when Bruce Shepard wants to waste $20 million on an ethnic student center for you,” Vitalis said. “That might be a misinterpretation of his tone. It’s kind of foolish to try to attack the people who are trying to help you out.”

Junior Jacob Rosenblum, an electrical engineering major,  thought the protest was effective in its ability to start a dialogue but said the sign of Shepard’s face–which featured him as speaking the word “Bullshit”– was odd.

“I don’t know why he created that particular image in the way he did,” Rosenblum said.

Junior Theresa Williams, who studies creative writing and fine arts mixed media, said Shepard’s email felt more like a “dumping of information” than a conversation.

“It is the fact that the email was sent to everybody when–clearly–the content was supposed to be kept between those working on the ESC project,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said, as of now, there isn’t an obvious solution to the issue reflected in Shepard’s message. The protest took issue with the email as Jarvis said she understands that solving the issue revolving around the ESC is more complicated. 

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