by Paul Mullin
Students and administrators of Westminster Choir College (WCC) gathered in Williamson Hall on the Princeton campus yesterday as part of a peaceful demonstration.
The event, a sit-in organized by Westminster sophomore Daniel Garrick, a senator on the Westminster Student Government Association’s Community Standards Board, was designed to allow students to voice their concerns about campus issues, discuss them with other students and interact with the administration.
“The idea came about when I noticed that many students were having extreme frustration with many of the actions of the administration, or the lack thereof,” Garrick said. “I introduced the idea to some of my friends and they were extremely in support of the sit-in. They helped out tremendously with organizing by distributing flyers and spreading information via word of mouth.”
What was originally a gathering of students turned into a conversation with the administration when Associate Dean of Students Larry Johnson was notified of the sit-in and contacted Garrick.
“I got wind of the meeting and gave Dan a call and I wanted to get involved,” Johnson said. “I heard that he had something on his Facebook page about it.”
Garrick indeed created an event profile on Facebook.com about the sit-in, to mass-invite students and spread the word about the demonstration. Approximately 30 to 40 students attended the event.
“I was certainly surprised to see that Dean Johnson even heard about the event to be completely honest,” Garrick said. “Mostly our conversation consisted of me reassuring him that I wasn’t going to chain myself to anything and that the demonstration was going to be peaceful.”
Johnson, WCC Dean Robert Annis and Dean of Students Anthony Campbell were all present to listen to the students and provide any answers they could.
While Annis explained that not all of the answers could be immediately forthcoming, he stressed the importance of accomplishing a more effective communication with the students on these issues.
“We have struggled in some ways we did not realize to communicate,” Annis said. “We are going to have regular meetings to discuss these issues, and whoever needs to be there is going to be there.”
Annis also made a point of how it is often the case that the administration is presented with two options to act and improve some aspect of the campus, but must choose only one to do at a time because of budgetary constraints.
One of the main concerns expressed by students is one dear in the hearts of Lawrenceville students as well: the issue of parking. Often, students have been forced to park on nearby streets, sometimes with adverse consequences.
“I feel like I am paying tuition and a half because of all the tickets I have,” said junior Mike Tedesco.
Parking is also a concern because, with the formation of the Westminster School of the Arts and the increased possibility that WCC students will need to take more classes on the Lawrenceville campus, getting back to Princeton and finding a spot in time for the next class may be a problem.
Among other concerns were wireless Internet connectivity in the residence halls, the push to integrate the two campuses, the condition of the Bristol Chapel and the food services on campus, which are also provided by Aramark.
In an e-mail to The Rider News sent on Wednesday, Garrick said that the sit-in was organized to “show the administration that WCC students are tired of being ignored of our rights and demands to maintain our rich tradition as an institution. It is also to show that we do not approve of the recent pay raise that President Rozanski has received (The Rider News, Feb. 8).” But, Garrick said, there was bevy of frustrations among students that led him to organize the session.
“There were a variety of issues that have led up to this point,” he said. “Many frustrated students come to me with issues because of my position on the SGA. Every week I try to bring these concerns to the body. However, once that I saw that there were a lot of issues that weren’t being responded to by the administration, I decided that I wanted to bring the conversation to them in the form of a student demonstration.”
Grad student Mike Schmidt, who has attended WCC during all five years of his collegiate career, tried to remind those present of how far the school has come since he was a freshman.
“It’s easy to gripe about things that have not happened, but a lot has been done in the past four or five years,” he said.
Johnson commended Garrick on his organization of the event, and was glad that the “general need to voice student concerns” was met.
“Dan did a great job of coordinating what I think was a really valuable conversation,” he said.
“Overall I don’t think the event could have gone better,” Garrick said. “In the end the students won. It was the hype of the demonstration that caught the attention of the administration. If it weren’t for that, the discussion that happened today would have never taken place.”