On Nov. 2, students took turns stepping up to a mic at the flagpole on the UC front lawn to share how they were personally affected by the administation’s actions regarding upperclassmen housing for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Though the protest was organized in response to emails sent out about housing, some students joined the movement, labeled “Path to Poverty,” to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency from administrators.
“To be clear, this protest is not just about housing,” said Andrew Goldman, ’19. “Today’s protest is about the university administration failing to represent the needs and interest of the students. Today is about the university administration failing to provide transparency on the decisions that affect all of us. It is about the university administration refusing to recognize the legitimacy of student representation in the governance and decision making of this institution.”
Students expressed their frustration of not being heard and their fear that Lehigh will not provide for them. They not only demanded several administrative changes but also wanted to be treated with respect as a community.
Chloe Sider, ’21, a member of the Student Political Action Coalition, attended the protest with other members of the group. She said despite appearing like they are advocating for students’ needs, administrators are not doing enough.
“Most of these issues stem from improper planning,” said Ruben Rosas, ’20, the president of the Latino Student Alliance.
Rosas said he wants students to have the opportunity be more involved in decisions made by the board of trustees as well as more diversity and equity across campus.
Rosas said it would be beneficial to have an office that serves as an intermediary to help guide students with moving off-campus. He said the administration did a poor job with timing, especially in the middle of 4 o’clock exams.
As a student, Savanna James, ’21, said student opinions should be taken into account when the university is making decisions. She said the university didn’t consider that many students are struggling financially and would have no place to live when Housing Services initially said there would be no on-campus options for upperclassmen.
“A lot of the comments were right on,” said Ricardo Hall, the vice provost of Student Affairs. “The institution fell down when we should be holding our students up.”
Hall said the requests by the students were reasonable, and the administration should be sharing more information with the student body.
“It’s encouraging when I see students passionate about something,” Hall said.
Jesse Seaverns, ’21, demanded the university provide educational programs about finding off-campus housing, repay students who signed contracts and leases as a result of the first housing email and prioritize students of the highest financial need in the lottery system.
Hall said college is about speaking up for change and beliefs. Following the protest, Hall said he and others in the administration will work hard to regain trust and make things right in the short and long term.