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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Frontline: University must take stance amid turmoil

By Anna Edlund


Even with increased uncertainty of the future nationwide, Western has been conspicuously silent.

Usually, universities distance themselves from politics. Since schools like Western rely on state funding, it’s a bold and dangerous move to make a stand regarding politics.

Western has put itself into the fray once or twice. The university re-emphasized its commitment to undocumented students in a statement from university President Sabah Randhawa stating the university will continue to protect undocumented students at Western. Another statement from The President’s Office expressed disappointment and concern with President Donald Trump’s immigration executive order, banning individuals from seven countries from entering the U.S. last month.

So why the silence now?

Other than these two statements and an additional acknowledgment of the divisive presidential election, the university has kept quiet regarding the turmoil and unrest in our country and community. Changes that students are directly affected by have not been acknowledged by the university in any way.

A recent rise in anti-semitism has sparked fear across Jewish communities, including a number of bomb threats being called in to Jewish centers. This brings to mind Western’s own troubling past. Winter 2016 saw two swastikas painted on residence hall doors, as well as anti-semitic threats attached to a headless doll left in Ridgeway Beta.

This weekend would have been the perfect opportunity for Western to reiterate its solidarity with Jewish students. A swift condemnation paired with a statement of unwavering support would signal not only the position of the university, but its awareness of what students are dealing with. Instead, nothing. What gives?

Students rely on the university for a number of services. A proper education. Safety on campus. Equal opportunities. At times like these, Western’s reassurances of each of these ideals is an important reminder of what they stand for.

Take health care. The repealing and replacement of the Affordable Care Act is beginning to gain momentum, worrying many who rely on it for care. Western offers some health care services through its Student Health Center, including minor surgeries, contraception and mental health services. For students who may not have the means to access health care off campus, these services are invaluable.

In times of change like these, a promise from the universe that it will continue to provide these services means more than a simple reminder. They are a guarantee that even in the face of outside change and upheaval, the campus continues to prioritize its students and their needs first and foremost. That despite whatever happens nationally, Western is a campus tuned in to and aware of exactly what its students require.

These issues go beyond basic politics. As the famous slogan says, the personal is political. The issues that affect students’ ability to learn must be of concern to the university.

To ask that Western address each and every issue facing students is illogical, of course. But having the university acknowledge many of the foremost concerns that take students away from their primary objective — learning, is not too much to ask.



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