Marquette University postpones New Student Convocation due to student demonstration

New+Student+Convocation+postponed+while+students+continue+to+protest.

Photo by Emily Bittman

New Student Convocation postponed while students continue to protest.

Marquette University’s New Student Convocation was postponed this afternoon after a demonstration held by members of the Black Student Union, Marquette University Student Government, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Marquette University and the Latin American Student Organization.

Outside Lalumiere Language Hall around 3:45 p.m., students held signs and chanted phrases in an effort to hold the university accountable for how students of color are treated on campus. This coming just 15 minutes before the convocation was planned to start.

The demonstration stemmed from events accumulated over time that have left some students frustrated with the university and its plan to expand diversity and inclusion initiatives. Today, MUSG President Bridgeman Flowers was chosen to be part of a panel for the convocation ceremony, being the only student of color asked to speak.

Marquette University’s new student convocation is an annual induction ceremony for the incoming first-year class, transfer students and families. During the ceremony, students receive a class pin and are formally introduced to their college dean.

Students protested against Marquette for claiming to be a diverse institution, yet some students feel that the university does not recognize students of color enough. The goal was to also show solidarity amongst students of color.

Flowers and Samari Price, vice president of MUSG, also uploaded a video via Instagram discussing how Marquette does not have enough support systems in place for people of color on campus, which contributed toward the demonstration.

After the event was postponed, Marquette University posted a statement on various social media platforms including that Provost Kimo Ah Yun and Vice President of Student Affairs Xavier Cole would also be speaking at the convocation. Both identify as people of color. Flowers chose to not speak at the panel and instead participated in the demonstration.

The Marquette University Police Department was present at the demonstration. This led to confusion about whether the police were called on the demonstration or not.

University spokesperson Kevin Conway said since the convocation is a larger event, MUPD was already planned to attend the event.

“I think it’s nothing from the usual that Marquette does,” Teresa Godinez, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and MUSG legislative vice president said. “We came here peacefully demonstrating and protesting and here they call the police. We didn’t do anything violent so I don’t know why that was necessary and canceling the event … This isn’t the end, this is just the beginning.”

Lioneal Clay, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and BSU president said that throughout the summer BSU has had the ability to combat issues on their platform that have impacted students across the Marquette campus.

“In these meetings administration have not moved forward with urgency when we discussed our concerns. We implore you to take a stand and not attend today’s Convocation. We will be having a silent protest instead,” Clay said.

The demonstration occurred in front of first-year students and their parents, causing some parents to be upset by it.

“I just wish that [the university does] something about it … you’re just basically letting them do it again for another event,” Sheba Loiacono, the parent of a first-year student, said. “They’re not going to stop. People pay a lot of money for this school and then small things that happened like this and you’re going to stop it [the convocation]?”

Marquette also said in its statement that they appreciate students’ voices and respect their freedom of speech in coordination with the university’s values.

“Unfortunately, due to the disruptive nature of today’s demonstration at the New Student Convocation, the university rescheduled the event,” Marquette said in its statement.

It is currently unknown when the event is being rescheduled to.

“We believe we will have the most faculty and staff of color in our history, and we should set another all-time high in student diversity this fall,” University President Lovell said this morning in a tweet thread.

The Black Student Council sent a statement shortly after where they said that the Office of Engagement and Inclusion — an office dedicated to diversity, inclusion and community engagement on campus — was recently eliminated without explanation. They also stated that the Urban Scholars, a program with a majority of students of color, is lacking full-time staff members and is not looking to hire until next summer.

Marquette responded to those rumors on Instagram and said that “Marquette has not closed the Office of Engagement and Inclusion.” The university then stated that it prioritizes programs such as the OEI and is actively working to fill all open positions due to resignations.

In the statement Marquette released, they said that 30% of the incoming first-year class identifies as people of color, therefore, increasing the university’s diversity to an all-time high. The statement goes on to say that Marquette is “proud of this progress” and said they continue to be dedicated to initiatives that will benefit diversity, equity and inclusive goals that the university and MUSG have.

Godinez said that although Marquette claims that becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution is a priority, there is a significant issue of a lack of diversity and a lack of support for Latinx students.

“They have us as a diversity token, always tokenizing us and profiting off of us, showing us all over social media that we are this diverse university when in reality they do not have our back and it does not feel that way,” Godinez said. “That is why today we came out here to show that we are not going to stop, we are not going to be silenced.”

Part of the reason why Clay joined the BSC, he said, is because he has experienced a lack of support in the educational system for students of color. Clay said he wanted to make a difference while in college.

“Education is the way to success, the key to life, and if you don’t provide the resources for students to be successful then there will be no success,” Clay said.

Clay said that BSU is working to build educational support for Black students.

“I think what I found really interesting today was how much my existence was threatening to people and I am very tired of that. I am not scary, I’m just a regular student on campus and I shouldn’t be carrying all this burden and all these issues that I have,” Godinez said.

This story was written by Skyler Chun and Julia Abuzzahab. They can be reached at skyler.chun@marquette.edu and julianna.abuzzahab@marquette.edu

Hope Moses, Emily Bittman and Andrew Amouzou contributed to this story.