Coalition of student organizations submits letter addressed to President Wiewel

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On Jan. 28, numerous student unions and organizations sent the following letter to President Wim Wiewel in response to his Jan. 26 statement regarding the recent graffiti on campus. At the request of the signatories, The Pioneer Log is publishing their letter in full.

Dear President Wiewel,

We are writing to you with concern regarding your response to the graffiti on campus.

We acknowledge that you may feel targeted or victimized by this graffiti. However, we felt hurt and disappointed that you chose to call the police in response to an act of nonviolent protest against police violence. This response struck us as imperceptive and damaging to our community and the trust we have in you. We felt it reflected a disconnect from the minds of the community you seek to lead.

As a collective of community-minded individuals, we take great pride in the opportunities for intellectual and emotional growth that our small-liberal arts college cultivates. The strength of our education stems from our tight-knit community. Our development as citizens and individuals is intrinsically tied to the positive relationships that span across student-faculty lines.

It is with the goal of preserving the quality of these relationships and improving our community’s response to conflict that we are reaching out to you.

We recognize your acknowledgment of your role in the murder of Jason Washington and your dedication to resolving conflicts on our campus sans guns and violence. However, voicing opposition to violent-policing tactics is but one-step in the right direction. Your statement, and now your response to the graffiti on campus, suggests an unwillingness to step outside of the pageantry of academia to connect with your community in a way that prioritizes healing.

By calling the police, you chose to criminalize and ostracize members of our community. Your open fraternization with a punitive and racist system of justice suggests that you are uninterested in understanding the perspective of the community that you lead.

We urge you not to pursue charges and instead engage with us students in an intervention focused on addressing the distrust and harm that this incident has created.

We encourage you, as the leader of the college, to set a precedent for our community by inviting the students involved with this incident to join you in a facilitated conversation that will address: your role in the murder of Jason Washington and how it continues to affect your relationship with our community, the harm created by the students’ graffiti, and how we as a community can transform our approach to conflict resolution by choosing to openly communicate rather than engage with a judicial system that perpetuates violence.

Over the course of this past year, we have joined with students and faculty to begin developing an initiative that will bring a transformative justice approach to conflict resolution on our campus. Transformative Justice is a collaborative process of responding to harm through open dialogue and community-accountability. The process is based on Indigenous justice systems, and at its core, is a framework designed to resolve conflicts without perpetuating harm and violence.

We believe that this incident is a critical moment, where you, as the president of our college, have an opportunity to lead our community in creating a framework that supports justice and safety for everyone at Lewis and Clark. Your actions stand to demonstrate the values and integrity of our college and we hope that you will consider this perspective while pursuing justice in the community.

Prison Abolition Club

Black Student Union

Feminist Student Union

Muslim Student Association

Queer Student Union

ASLC Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Committee

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