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Administration holds forum about campus safety, the multicultural center: Allen, Carson disagree on ‘progress’ regarding Monday’s meeting

Justin Lee Campbell/News Editor

Provost Bob Jones (left), new Chief Diversity Officer Lee Gill and President Jim Clements listen at Tuesday night’s forum on campus climate, safety and the multicultural center.

“They don’t care,” PhD student A.D. Carson said. “They don’t care.”
Carson, one of the Clemson Five (who were arrested last Thursday on trespassing charges for occupying Sikes Hall after hours), and his fellow protesters met privately with administration at 4 p.m. Monday to discuss a potential resolution to the on-going Sikes sit-in. Both President Jim Clements and Vice President of Student Affairs Almeda Jacks attended the meeting. Administration met in advance that morning at 9 a.m. The protesters were not aware of what was specifically discussed. 
After meeting with the administration, the core organizers recapped their meeting to supporters. Carson said that the meeting did not produce a resolution and that the administration had presented a document that did not address protesters’ demands. 
“[The administration] didn’t produce for us what we asked for. They produced a timeline document to get to [what we asked for]. We want the thing on other side of that,” Carson said. 
“We don’t expect [protesters] to do all the work for them. If the [administration] is not doing their jobs, they shouldn’t have those jobs.”
At the president’s first forum, Chief of Staff Max Allen addressed the protesters’ claim that there was no progress.  
“We presented them with the information about … these three forums we are doing. We asked for their feedback … we got some pretty constructive feedback,” Allen said. “From our standpoint, that’s progress.”
Allen said where progress fell short was in the students’ unanswered question for the administration’s public acknowledgement of the protest to the Clemson community. 
“We did not feel comfortable at that time to respond to that question because there are things that we need to think about. We thought we hit enough of [the grievances] to resonate with them.”
The first forum took place in McKissick Theater on Tuesday night and concentrated on campus climate and safety as well as the multicultural center. Allen facilitated conversation. 
“The current campus climate is not ideal for some students. We are all part of a Clemson family,” Allen said. “And part of our Clemson family is suffering.”
Allen also apologized to protesters: “Personally [I] offer my sincere apologies to our students having to go through [the sit-in] to get our attention. We want input from you to create action steps, plans to get out by the end of the week.”
Katie Hilton, a sophomore chemistry major and one of the student demonstrators, argued that the request for students to brainstorm ideas was “unfair.”
“That’s your job,” said Hilton, “that’s what you get paid to do.”
Other meeting attendees spoke on their frustrations about the location of the university’s Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center. The center was opened in Suite 602 of the Student Union for the purpose of “advising such groups as the Black Student Union, Council on Diversity Affairs, Gay Straight Alliance (now Sexualities and Gender Association), Latinos Unidos, International Student Association and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.”
Student Services Manager Lisa Robinson, who attended the forum, said that the location of the center was unacceptable.
“The placement and size and use of a multicultural center says a lot about how the institution values that center,” Robinson said. “A multicultural center isn’t an office suite.”
Allen said that by the fall of 2016, the administration is going to look into potential locations for a multicultural center. He also noted that although building a center is a long-term process, it does not mean the impossibility of a shorter-term solution.
“There are other spaces on campus that can probably be re-positioned and relocated for a multicultural center,” said Allen.
Climate safety was among those issues reviewed at the forum, in particular, the negative comments protesters received on social media platforms. Allen noted that investigations regarding Yik Yak threats had been initiated.
Wednesday, Clemson student Jamie Reece Moore was arrested and charged for posting the threats. His case is to be reviewed by the Clemson University Office of Community and Ethical Standards for possibly disciplinary action. 
After Tuesday night’s forum, A.D. Carson stood on the steps of Sikes Hall in low lighting, listening to Allen’s side of the story, which in Carson’s view still demonstrates a dearth of understanding. 
“The whole idea of the ‘Clemson family’ isn’t unrelated to the fact that administration has comprehension problems and issues that boil down to disrespect of people who disagree with them and this is exhibited by those in the Clemson community including students,” Carson said. 
“It’s a top-down problem because students exhibit the same attitudes 
as administration.”

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