BOT meeting put on hold amid cries of ‘justice for faculty’

Posted on 05 December 2017 by admin

Student protesters show support for professors by laying on ground, chanting


By: Stephen Buechter
Staff Writer


01STLCC’s Board of Trustees were interrupted during their Nov. 30 meeting when five students threw themselves onto the ground in front of the board table. Arguably the most important meeting this year, the board was scheduled to vote on whether or not to pass recent budget recommendations, including a reduction in force of up to 70 full-time faculty members. 

The initial five students acted before the vote could take place, laying on the floor and chanting “justice for faculty” over the meeting. The students refused to move and several other students joined in on the chanting. The board left during the protest and waited in a side room. The delay lasted for nearly an hour, gaining more students at it continued.

El-Shaddi Ackles, a student at Meramec who spoke out during the public forum section of the meeting, told those in attendance how his teachers had helped him through the death of his significant other, and described a “feeling of unity” with the other students in the room.  Ackle’s involvement in the protest was inspired by his “wonderful educational experience” at Meramec and his desire not to see it disappear.

Protesting students Ashley Zeiter, Colleen Messerly and Sarah Kelly attended the meeting to support STLCC professors. All three said that their participation in the protest was not planned beforehand, but were inspired by the action of other students .

“The reason I’m enjoying [my time at STLCC] is because of the faculty,” said Messerly.  “It’s not the facility, it’s all the faculty.”

The protest inspired mixed reactions from the crowd.  Although many students joined in, much of the faculty present simply watched on, with some discussing the protests as it took place, others remaining entirely silent.

When the board returned to the room over an hour later, they voted in a huddle amid protests, the results of which were drowned out by the sound of chanting.  Once the vote was over, the protesters moved outside the Cosand Center.

The results of the vote were not revealed until later that night. Members of the board left roughly ten minutes after the meeting in a group, ignoring the protestors outside.

Before the press release, however, a brief rumor circulated that the vote had been delayed until March 2018. This was proven false by a press release, sent out late that night, which announced the vote had in fact passed.

The rumor, thought to have been circulated by those standing close to the board during the vote, stemmed from an amendment to the reduction in force proposal delaying the reduction in force until March to allow time for faculty and staff to consider taking a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment deal.

Spencer Cook, a vocal part of the protest, said that he felt he was “lied to.”

“I’m not surprised [Chancellor Pittman] would lie to get us off his back,” said Cook. “That just shows how tired he is.”

Despite the RIF passing, Ackles said he remains certain that his voice was heard.

“I feel that we made an impact on the board members and were able to make our point well known,” said Ackles. “I am positive that our message was sent to the administration.”

But for Cook, the long fight has just begun.

“This is about what’s right,” said Cook. “All I care about now is winning the battle.”


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