WSW: Kalamazoo College President Says Free Speech and Student Safety Must be Protected
Kalamazoo College President Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran says the past few weeks at the college have "quite tumultuous." She says threats that included hate speech made people feel unsafe at the college. "It was simply horrible."
The threats were made directly against faculty, and followed tension in the college's student commission debating the policy that bans firearms on campus. Wilson-Oyelaran says that made some students, especially minority students, feel unsafe. The Kalamazoo College President was interviewed by WMUK's Gordon Evans and Kalamazoo Gazette Reporter Emily Monacelli.
Wilson-Oyelaran says Kalamazoo College, like many other colleges across the country, has increased the percentage of minority students, and also those from low-income backgrounds. She says while that's essential to a good education, "it also brings tensions." Wilson-Oyelaran says many students have their first interaction with ethnic diversity at Kalamazoo College. The K-College President says there are some programs to help make students more conscious of diversity, but she says more can be done. Wilson-Oyelaran says faculty members may also need more training on having "difficult conversations in classrooms."
Some students at Kalamazoo College have called for an "intercultural center," which they say could be a place to be free of harassment. Wilson-Oyelaran says other college have such centers. She says if one is going to be built at K-College intercultural centers at other campuses should be examined to see how they have worked.
Regarding the student commission discussion about firearms on campus and a student showing an empty holster during a meeting, Wilson-Oyelaran says both freedom of speech and student safety must be protected. "And it is an extremely fine line." She says this issue will be taken on at the college. Wilson-Oyelaran says that includes an evaluation of institution policies, training and the curriculum.
On other topics, Wilson-Oyelaran says it's now known yet how many "Kalamazoo Promise" students will attend the college in the fall. This year's graduating class will be the first that can attend some private schools, including Kalamazoo College, with scholarships provided by the Kalamazoo Promise. But Wilson-Oyelaran says there has been a large increase in students from Kalamazoo Public Schools applying to K-College. She says it will expand opportunities for students in the Kalamazoo School District.
In the web version of the interview, Wilson-Oyelaran discusses a new wellness center at Kalamazoo College as well as affordability and student loan debt.