Q&A with SU President Charles Wight
After a tumultuous start to the spring semester, Salisbury University is looking to recover and grow in the aftermath of yet another attack of racist vandalism.
The Flyer had a chance to sit down with SU President Wight to discuss his perspective on the recent attacks and the actions taken by his administration to address the concerns of the SU community.
Q: What is your response to the recent vandalism attacks that have occurred at the university?
A: Well, it's very disappointing and disheartening. A lot of students, faculty and staff have been put on edge and made afraid by the actions of a single person, or persons, committing this crime, and it makes me angry.
But I think we have seen the beginning of the end of this particular incident, and I'm optimistic that in the future, we'll be able to pull together as a community and move on.
Q: There have been a lot of rumors circulating since you announced the third attack of the most recent incident, which occurred in the Academic Commons. Can you clarify any details of that specific incident and why it wasn't reported and broadcasted alongside the other Henson and Fulton attacks?
A: [Everyone] should understand that when we are reluctant to talk about things, it is so that we do not compromise the integrity of a criminal investigation. Of course, I don't want to say anything that would give a suspect information that would make it more difficult for us to collect evidence or to prosecute the person.
What I can say is that when we discovered the incidence of graffiti in the Academic Commons, the police opened a separate investigation of that incident, and they are pursuing that investigation vigorously.
Q: What has been your reaction to the organized events and activism of campus organizations and individual students at the university?
A: It's been really interesting, and there have been both positive and negative aspects to this. I would say that the most positive thing for me is that last Wednesday [Feb. 19], when I asked to meet with a group of campus leaders, students, faculty and staff, there was a large group of people who were willing to just drop everything to come meet with us. We needed to talk about what was going on and what the next steps should be, and I was both amazed and pleased at that response.
We got word of a group of students who were planning a protest on Saturday [Feb. 22] morning, which was in the middle of an admissions open house. At first, I was concerned that it might hurt our student recruitment efforts, but the students were amazingly positive, and the event was almost entirely about unity, so I was extremely pleased. I think it reflects a level of maturity among some of our student leaders that I just hadn't really appreciated before.
Q: A frequent concern brought forward by students is that they don't feel entirely safe on campus. What is your response to students who feel this way?
A: Well, the threats that were made by this person or persons are real. They are serious. We are very fortunate that nobody has been directly confronted with a deadly weapon. So, I understand the fears and I respect them. They are real.
We do have, if you look at the objective statistics, a very safe campus in terms of people being subject to personal crimes, but we can always do better, and we are trying to do better.
Q: What are the university’s short- and long-term goals to address diversity and the concerns raised in the aftermath of these incidents?
A: Provost Olmsted compiled a list of things that were going on just within academic affairs in colleges and individual departments, and it's a very long list … Primarily, we have to work to diversify positions in the administration and among the faculty and in some areas of the staff. We have to walk the walk; we have to make sure that we are fulfilling our commitments.
We have a very large grant from the National Science Foundation to help departments, mostly in the Henson School but also in other places, to hire faculty of color to make sure that students have role models to look up to in order to make sure that we have a community … that makes everybody around here comfortable with what's going on.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image: Emma Reider images