Last night, the Lyceum hosted an event called Open Doors for all students so that we could introduce ourselves and get to know senior administrators. I was excited to attend because I finally felt that the administration wanted to be open and honest with students. But that all went downhill when protestors from the group called “Abolish IHL” entered the chancellor’s office and began a stand-in.
Suddenly, the room felt tense. Chancellor Boyce switched from in-depth discussion to quick pleasantries. One can understand why the dialogue was cut short. Coming off a massive uproar over his appointment at Ole Miss, Boyce did not want to stir the pot by saying something out of turn.
The purpose of Open Doors was to open up conversation. But some of the most meaningful conversations, those with our new chancellor, could not occur. While Chancellor Boyce could have ignored them and continued exchanging ideas with other students, the tone of the room was no longer one of understanding and desire to learn. The intention of the event had been lost, and I do wonder how Abolish IHL thought this protest would facilitate conversation.
I had questions for the chancellor about his vision for Ole Miss, how he would address rising political tensions on campus and what his thoughts were on policy changes made before his tenure. Not only was I prevented from asking those questions, I also felt uncomfortable knowing that I would be scrutinized for engaging with someone who the protestors say does not have a legitimate claim to power.
The recent demonstrations from student activist groups like Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) and Abolish IHL seem to shut down conversations more than open dialogue. Open Doors was neither the time nor the place to hold a stand-in. They may have had the right to express their ideas and sentiments about issues on campus, but so did every other student who walked through the doors of the Lyceum.
Rather than silence students from voicing their concerns about campus culture, the protestors could have taken the opportunity to ask the chancellor what his plans were to expedite the movement of the statue. Maybe they could have encouraged other students as they walked in to ask Chancellor Boyce the same question.
Now more than ever, Ole Miss students need to know their top administrators want to discuss the future of our university. Open Doors was successful in bringing students and administrators together to begin conversations about that path. But we cannot have these critical debates if we do not respect each person’s right to a voice in the matter.
Lauren Moses is a junior economics and political science major from Coppell, Texas.