Student Supports Faculty with Peaceful Demonstrations

Benjamin Hidalgo displays signs to show their dissatisfaction with faculty layoffs.

Kailene Nye, Editor-in-Chief

Ayanna Dexter wants laid off faculty to know she is standing in support of them.

The senior mass communications and design major said she was inspired to speak out after discovering one of her favorite professors is among those who have been let go.

“This professor is someone that I am close with and who came to Misericordia when I did,” Dexter said.

She began by sharing an online petition with her friends, collecting over 100 signatures. Once she saw how many students on campus were upset over the layoffs, she planned a series of peaceful campus demonstrations.

“I would say that the main goal of the peaceful demonstrations would be to gain clarity on the issue at hand and to get our professors back in the position they should be in, and that’s teaching us,” Dexter said.

She also wants to use the demonstrations as a way to get more students to use their voices because she thinks it’s important for them to realize the power they have.

“We do have a voice, and we don’t have to be disrespectful in order to get our point across,” she said. “No matter the situation, students could make a real change because I feel that faculty already spoke out, and they aren’t heard by administration.”

Dexter said she has gotten nothing but positive feedback so far, as more students have been supporting the demonstrations by adding their signatures or helping to spread the word.

Faculty have expressed their gratitude and support for the students’ efforts. Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, professor of English, said hearing about them has made her feel appreciated.

“Since we are here first and foremost for our students, it gives me an overwhelming sense of gratitude,” she said. “Standing up for what you believe is right is not always easy, but a group of students organized a thoughtful way to show support. I am so proud of them.”

She believes the students’ courage to express their concerns speaks to the quality of education the faculty provide for them.

“In the classroom setting, students are encouraged to use their voices and express their ideas. Taking part in a peaceful, respectful demonstration as they have done on this campus shows how they have been empowered to enact change,” Steinberger said.

Dexter said that while the demonstrations haven’t resulted in any conversations with the administration, they have made more people in the community aware of her cause. She said a WBRE news crew even showed up to the first demonstration on Feb. 26, and that gives her hope that more people will become aware of her concerns about the layoffs.

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and the best thing that the university could come up with is to get rid of well-needed professors that make the education what it is here,” Dexter said. “It saddens me, and I’m disappointed because I’ve been feeling out of place after learning so much about this situation that could’ve been handled a different way.”

She said the administration’s actions have made her feel less connected to the university and its values.

“When I came to Misericordia, it was because of the Women with Children Program, but the other reason for choosing to attend this university was because it was family-based, and it felt like I needed to be here,” she said. “I enjoyed knowing about what Misericordia is all about and sadly, the university’s values don’t matter anymore.”

Dexter plans to hold more peaceful demonstrations throughout the semester. She hopes students will continue to speak up for what they believe in after she graduates and hopefully be able to enact change.

“A change needs to be made, and that’s starting with the administration because students and faculty don’t deserve this treatment,” she said.