Students Rally in Support of McKenna
“Keep McKenna!” roared out on Temple Street this afternoon as Suffolk University students gathered outside C. Walsh Theatre to show their solidarity with President Margaret McKenna. This rally comes after recent controversy surrounding news that the Board of Trustees plans to fire McKenna after just seven months in office.
The rally, organized by student Tiffany Corin Martinez, took place at 1 pm as a town hall meeting regarding McKenna occurred inside the theatre. Limited seating meant that it was difficult for all students to observe, but it did not deter them from letting their voices be heard.
“They can hear every word from inside!” proclaimed a student as he exited the theatre.
Amid a cluster of homemade signs and group chants, individuals came forth to the center of the crowd, emphatically voicing their concerns about the Board of Trustee’s treatment of McKenna and the future of the university. The excitement escalated with dancing and cheering accompanied by a djembe drum provided by one of the observers. There was a palpable sense of community alive in the crowded street.
However, this time did not consist entirely of smiles. Along with the strong support for McKenna, much of it stemming from her promotion of more diversity on campus, was a lingering dread that students did not have a have a voice in university matters.
“I don’t think the Board supports our students and our feelings,” said senior Samuel Zeiberg. “Given their past actions, I feel like they will ignore us. They won’t take us into account.”
The notable absence of any members of the Board at the meeting, despite an invitation from the Faculty Senate, was a large rallying point, resulting in echos of “Don’t trust the trustees.”
“They disrespected us by not showing their faces here today,” proclaimed Clara Sandrin, a junior and government major. “Who does that really represent? Not us.”
She also addressed her concern with the power that the Board possesses at the university.
“The fact that we have lifetime trustees, that should be a tick off that there are problems. It is hard to get anything going with concept change here at the university,” she said.
The school’s reputation and the impact it has on the students was among the other pressing concerns.
“Do you want your diplomas, your degrees, signed by a president who just walked in or is about to leave?” shouted one member of the crowd, a student who had just returned to the university after five years. “Outside of the thousands of dollars we payed it means something to us. Our degrees mean something to us. No one is going to be seeing just my name when my degree gets printed, they are going to see the name of this university.”
Despite this, there was an unshakable optimism to the crowd, and many urged for more involvement from their fellow students and faculty.
“I love how many people have stepped up to voice their opinion,” said Sandrin. “Students are a part of the school, I don’t think they know how much power they have. They feel intimidated, but they shouldn’t. If anything, the Board should feel intimidated.”
The energy extended beyond just the demonstration.
“Social media is incredibly important right now,” announced Martinez. “Use the hashtag, put this on your snap.”
The movement has found itself onto a bevy of social media with posts containing the hashtag #SUStandsWithMcKenna and #FireMeyer, a jab at the university chairman.
In an effort to provide a direct platform to allow students to voice their concerns, the Faculty Senate has set up accounts to allow for feedback. Students can text a message to 37607 with “SUFFOLK CONCERNS” in the message or tweet their message @poll SUFFOLK CONCERNS.
The Board’s meeting regarding McKenna is scheduled to occur this Friday, though the time and location are currently unknown. Details are scant, but according to the new Facebook group “#WeAreSuffolk SU Student Activism,” which organized this rally, there is another event in the works.