The Pioneer Log Archives

Tensions arise between ASLC, administrators

Editor’s Note: In an effort to provide relevant information to its readers, The Pioneer Log has granted anonymity to some sources in this story. The term “multiple sources” refers to over one dozen individuals familiar with the incidents described, all of whom are community members in positions of leadership.

Due to the severe snow and ice storms that swept across the Portland area, all Lewis & Clark classes and campus activities — including a meeting of The Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) Senate — were canceled on Feb. 16 and 17.

The Feb. 16 Senate meeting would have been attended by President Wim Wiewel, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Suttmeier, and Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes-Sullivan. The three administrators were slated to provide updates on the effectiveness of Lewis & Clark’s COVID-19 policies and discuss future plans for the college.

In an email, ASLC Vice President Jeremiah Koshy ’21 noted his appreciation for the college’s response to the historic winter weather and described ASLC’s plans to address crisis-related emergencies.

“We have not organized any new support systems or initiatives, instead students are welcome to apply for our discretionary fund especially for technological or health (not covered by insurance) related expenses,” Koshy said. “We have not heard any major complaints from any source and I personally think the college has handled the snowstorm better than it has any other major incident in the last year.”

The Senate meeting was scheduled to occur after three weeks of tensions related to the Jan. 25 graffiti incident on campus. On that day, academic buildings were spray painted with messages criticizing Wiewel’s role in the 2018 death of Jason Washington. Wiewel’s subsequent message outlining LC’s anti-graffiti policy and the filing of a police report with the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) sparked concerns from some community members.

On Jan. 28, the United Front, a collection of student unions and organizations, sent a letter to Wiewel outlining their disappointment with the college’s graffiti response and inviting him to join their call for transformative justice. During their Feb. 2 meeting, senators and representatives voted to send this letter to the student body through the email of ASLC President Mikah Bertelmann’s ’21. ASLC Equity, Inclusion, & Justice Chair Mateo Telles ’23 offered correspondence between the United Front and ASLC.

Bertelmann intended to include the United Front letter in his Feb. 5 email to the student body. However, a technical issue related to a new listserv prevented the email from being sent. This problem sparked a conversation between Bertelmann and Holmes-Sullivan, who allegedly expressed dissatisfaction over ASLC’s actions in response to the graffiti incident. In an email, Bertelmann confirmed that Holmes-Sullivan voiced concerns over the health of the relationship between administrators and senior ASLC Cabinet members.

In the days following the conversation, multiple sources told The Pioneer Log that senior ASLC Cabinet officials described the relationship between ASLC and administrators as fragile. This description was allegedly offered in numerous meetings between student union leaders and Cabinet officers, as well as in private conversations between involved parties. These sources allege that Wiewel, through Holmes-Sullivan, indicated a disinterest in continuing a working relationship with ASLC if the United Front letter was sent to the student body. At the time of publication, the letter had not been sent to the student body through Bertelmann’s ASLC email.

Holmes-Sullivan denied these allegations in an email statement, but stated that there had been communication lapses. She did not specify what miscommunications occurred, and many community members had conflicting information of the events that transpired.

“This is not correct and I am not sure where this is coming from,” Holmes-Sullivan said. “The graffiti incident and the subsequent miscommunications between administration and some student organizations is concerning, but fixable.”

Wiewel also denied that he and other administrators are not interested in working with ASLC and complimented Bertelmann’s leadership.

“I respect Mikah, who has been doing an excellent job leading ASLC and coordinating closely with the administration to work through incredible challenges and uncharted times,” Wiewel said via email. “I appreciate being able to speak frankly and pragmatically with Mikah and his ASLC peers, and look forward to working together.”

According to Koshy, Holmes-Sullivan and Suttmeier will appear at the March 30 Senate meeting. It is unknown if Wiewel is scheduled to speak at a future Spring 2021 Senate meeting. ASLC is set to reconvene next Tuesday, Feb. 23, for a regularly scheduled meeting. All future meeting agendas have already been set — thus, there will be no shift to accommodate the scheduled guests of the canceled meeting.

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