Angela Davis, and the bureaucracy that cancelled her

A series of controversies surround the formerly scheduled event “The Joint Struggle and Collective Liberation: A Conversation with Angela Davis.” Photo courtesy of John Edmonds and The New York Times.

BRIDGET EARLY | MANAGING EDITOR    MEGHAN STRATTON | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

bfearly@butler.edu                                        mrstratt@butler.edu

Butler University made international news last week when “The Joint Struggle and Collective Liberation: A Conversation with Angela Davis,” originally scheduled for April 1, was — depending on who’s telling you the story — either postponed or canceled.

Roua Daas, the chair of the student group organizing the event — the SGA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board — said the university canceled the virtual event because of paperwork mistakes and funding issues, ones she said she didn’t know existed and hadn’t been enforced. Daas accused the administration of using those issues as justification, but that the event’s cancellation was “trying to silence marginalized voices in order to maintain systems of power and privilege.”

The university administration — chiefly Frank Ross, Butler’s vice president of student affairs — said the event was postponed because Daas and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board failed to follow proper booking and notification procedures. The administration said the event will be rescheduled. 

Members of the Student Government Association came to varying conclusions. Some, including first-year senator Aidan Kohnke, said student concerns about Davis’ controversial background merited a resolution to withdraw SGA funding — student dollars — for the event. Others, including SGA president Maya Patel and then-Speaker Will Gigerich, flagged procedural errors, which they believed justified postponing the April 1 event with plans to reschedule in the fall.

The Butler Collegian talked to nearly everyone involved in the dispute. What we found falls somewhere in between. This is a story of bureaucratic bungling and mishandling of a decades-old ideological dispute — and the web of accusations that followed.

Here’s how the situation unfolded.

In the beginning, there was Roua

In December 2020, Roua Daas, a senior French and psychology double major and the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board, began researching the requirements to bring an outside speaker to campus. After around a week of introductory planning for a DEIB event, Daas reached out to Gotham Artists, the agency that represents Angela Davis, on Dec. 6.

“I mean, Dr. Angela Davis is a revolutionary civil rights activist, you know, she’s an abolitionist,” Daas said. “The knowledge that she can share with students is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Davis’ team confirmed that she was interested and available. By Jan. 9, the two parties officially settled on an April 1 date.

 Daas sent the particulars to her SGA board advisors using Butler University’s Speaker form, the first of a series of forms meant to document the booking process. This form serves as the first notice from any student organizers to university staffers that an event is being planned. Gina Forrest, the university’s executive director of diversity, equity, and inclusion diversity programs at Butler, received the information on Jan. 17.

Forrest knew Davis’ presence on campus would be contentious, given her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian-led protest against the state of Israel. To prepare administrators for the potential adverse reactions, Forrest sent a preliminary email on Feb. 22 to alert a variety of university staffers to ensure someone was aware of the situation.

 

Frank Ross, vice president of student affairs; Stephanie Judge Cripe, vice president of marketing and communications; and Daniel Meyers, the director of the Center for Faith and Vocation, all received notice of the Davis event sent from Forrest. She also connected other SGA advisors: Jesse Neader and Asia Hudson, respectively, the director and assistant director of student activities, student involvement and leadership.

Though Davis’ history of political engagement and affiliations have long been the subject of controversy, Daas was undeterred. 

“Angela Davis is Angela Davis, and she’s incredible,” Daas said. “Beyond just Israel, Palestine or her views on Palestine, she was part of the Black Panther Party, and she was Top 10 Most Wanted for the FBI, you know. So I expected that there would be some, some backlash. But in my mind, I was like ‘this is Angela Davis.’” 

Forrest — the DEIB advisor — signed the financially binding contract on Feb. 9 after confirming the details with Butler’s legal team. With negotiations over, Daas and her team were officially on deadline. The event, as far as Daas was concerned, was set.

 

Daas sent the signed contract to Davis’ team via email on Feb. 9.

Information in circulation

SGA’s marketing and communications team set to work making infographics for the Angela Davis event after Daas provided them with information on Feb. 25.

The Diversity Center began circulating information about the event on March 15 — specifically, an infographic designed and shared by SGA’s marketing and communications team — and the event’s inclusion in Butler’s Daily Digest rapidly pushed the news into campus spaces.

 

 

The infographic providing information about the event began circulating on March 15. 

By late March, news of Davis’ event had spread widely across campus as brightly colored fliers filtered into inboxes both physical and virtual.

One student The Collegian contacted noted that in one of her classes, the professor marked the event as a highlight of the semester, returning repeatedly to the topic.

“[The professor] brought it up most weeks because she was so excited about it,” the student said.

The news spread. Daas felt confident. 

Bureaucracy knocks

When an SGA board intends to put money toward an event, a representative of that board must fill out a four-question form. The form exists so Senate is notified at least 14 days before any financially-binding documentation is signed. 

The Senate form was created in October 2020 after a controversial event, “Safe Protesting and Boycott 101,” sparked outrage on campus. Through the form, the Senate hoped to approve of any speakers and partners that SGA sponsors.

After response from the board chairs, the form was overhauled on Nov. 18, 2020. The new clause stated that while senators must be notified of the event, they do not have to approve it.

However, confusion with the form began with one of the four questions listed: who are you partnering with and/or sponsoring?

 

 

Daas completed the “student senate partnership & sponsorship notification form” on March 5.

In Daas’ eyes, that question was where she was meant to report the event’s co-sponsors. And she had co-sponsors; on Feb. 22, Daas formalized that the Diversity Center, the Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies department and the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement would co-sponsor the event.

Davis’ name was not listed on the form, nor were the names of her agents. 

SGA leaders’ understanding was different; the tumultuous history of booking speakers meant that Gigerich, then-Speaker of the Senate, designed the form as a way to track any guests — especially those that could be considered contentious. Because Davis’ name was not on the form, SGA Senate was not notified that DEIB had chosen to host and sponsor her.

The confusion didn’t end with the form’s purpose. The sequence in which the university and SGA forms needed to be submitted also proved to be a point of divergence. 

SGA leaders’ understanding — and director of student activities Jesse Neader’s understanding — of the SGA Senate notification form was that it should be filled out before an applicant fills out the Butler Speaker form. The Butler Speaker form is used by all student organizations to formally notify their faculty advisor when they want to host a speaker and allows a financially-binding contract to be signed.

Forrest — the faculty advisor for DEIB — signed the contract with Davis’ agency on Feb. 9 after confirming the details with Butler’s legal team, nearly a month before Daas filled out the Senate notification form on March 5. Forrest said this is completely logical, as was the decision to sign Davis before submitting the form.

“Because why take something to SGA if I could’ve said no?” Forrest said. “Because we still have to go through our attorney, we have to go through their people, and if that doesn’t agree, then Angela Davis — or whoever — could have said ‘I’m not coming.’ Right, so we get all that stuff first and then they will go to the student Senate.” 

Forrest acknowledged that while the creators of the form — specifically, Gigerich — might have seen benefits to structuring it the way they did, the vagueness makes it easy for board chairs to make honest mistakes. 

“If I had a time machine,” Forrest said, “and I could go back and I was on the committee writing that form, I probably would have said, ‘This needs to be a little clearer.’ But here we are now, so I don’t know if we can hold Roua responsible for that form.”

Both SGA leaders, Daas, and Forrest agreed that the form was vague. Where the respective parties differed, however, was in their response to procedural error. According to SGA leaders, even though the form was vague, the person who filled it out could still be held accountable.

Forrest disagreed.

“Were [the procedures] followed? Yes,” she said. “Could you argue that that form is vague? Yes, you could, but to me, that does not equate that [the procedure] wasn’t followed.”

To the best of their knowledge, DEIB correctly filed all paperwork. Less than a week before the event, clerical errors were flagged by SGA. Never before, Daas said, had these procedures been enforced with DEIB events. 

“I feel like policies are being pulled out left and right,” Daas said.

 A freshman Senator makes their senior play 

As the topic of the Davis event made its way into dinner conversations and classroom discussions, some members of student government began taking issue with it. 

Aidan Kohnke, a first-year political science major, learned that Davis was speaking from a Political Science department email sent by department chair Robin Turner on March 26. Kohnke, a Residential College senator, said he was previously unaware of the event.

“I was really confused,” Kohnke said. “I found out it was an SGA event and I never approved it. I didn’t know anything about it. Nothing. So I reached out to people, and there were a few others that reached out. We all pretty much came to the consensus that nobody knew what was going on.”

Initially, Kohnke said, his concerns were procedural. But after conducting his own research, he learned about Davis’ support for the BDS movement. He also learned that Davis was involved in the Communist party. He worried that her presence would be potentially harmful to handfuls of the Butler community, most prominently the Jewish students and staff.

That day, Kohnke reached out to Lauren Carrier, the president of Hillel — a prominent Jewish student organization on campus — to share his concerns and to learn whether Hillel was aware of Davis’ impending event. Carrier had a history of outspoken opposition to BDS, Kohnke knew, and when she responded that she had not known about the Davis event, Kohnke was concerned.

Carrier confirmed that it was Kohnke who brought concerns about Davis’ support for BDS to her, and not the other way around.

“He was concerned about how [the] implications of this would go down for Jewish students,” Carrier said.

Kohnke communicated his procedural and content concerns to Gigerich, then-Speaker of the Senate and current SGA president-elect. Gigerich confirmed to The Collegian that a senator relayed Jewish students’ “concerns about SGA’s sponsorship and use of funds for this event, especially considering the Senate was never notified of any partnership with Angela Davis” to him.

Carrier said she also reached out to Gigerich to ask for more information and learn whether SGA would be a sponsor. She said in that conversation with Gigerich, she did not express concerns about the content of Davis’ talk. Carrier said she never spoke with members of Butler’s administration. 

Carrier told The Collegian that she specifically takes issue with SGA sponsoring the event because portions of the funding comes from Butler’s student activity fees.

“This could be problematic for Jewish students to see their student government sponsoring it,” Carrier said. “I want to make that very clear that [Davis is] allowed to foster these beliefs, and she’s allowed to feel and think how she wants and she’s also allowed to express it on the college campus. But it’s one thing when the student government is supporting that because it takes a very critical position against a minority of students. Why do they support that?”

“Something may be bubbling up”

The concerns rattled SGA leadership. Later on March 26, Gigerich was contacted by several other senators who expressed concerns about the event and SGA’s sponsorship. 

The concerns galvanized Gigerich into action. At 4 p.m. on Friday, he and Daas spoke on a phone call.

“That is when he told me that there were students reaching out to him about the event,” Daas said. “He said that they had concerns that Angela Davis has been anti-Israel in the past, and they were asking why she was coming and why SGA was bringing her.”

After that phone call, Daas informed Forrest, Neader and Hudson about the information she received from Gigerich. In that communication, she characterized the complaints as Zionist. 

Forrest, for her part, wanted to pass on the information. She texted a coworker close to Frank Ross, Butler’s vice president of student affairs, sharing that “a student had asked an SGA senator about the Angela Davis event saying that she is anti-Israel and asking why she’s coming.” Then, Forrest said she texted Ross the same message immediately after.

“He knew from me Friday that there was at least one student — now he did not know there was a resolution — but he knew there was something maybe bubbling up,” Forrest said.

Over the weekend, Kohnke began drafting a Senate resolution to remove SGA’s sponsorship of the event. He said he believed SGA should not be sponsoring and using student activity fees to run an event that all students may not support.

“Angela Davis has been known to attempt to connect the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the racism faced by minority groups in the United States by portraying Israel as an apartheid state and accusing Israel and Jews of ethnic cleansing,” the resolution draft said. “Let it be resolved that the Student Government Association shall no longer sponsor the ‘Joint Struggle and Collective Liberation’ event on April 1st, 2021 because SGA does not participate in events that promote hate of religion or nationality.” 

Kohnke said he supported Davis’ right to speak on campus, however, and would attend the event. 

“I was hoping to remove the sponsorship so [the event] could run anyway,” he said. “I saw that way it would run and SGA wouldn’t be involved. But SGA is the one who funded it. So in the end, that would have actually just [canceled] it. I didn’t realize that at first. So it was an error on my part.”

The resolution never made it to the Senate floor. 

Later on March 26, Gigerich contacted Jesse Neader, his SGA advisor, stating that he had heard concerns from a student and several senators about the event.

Meanwhile, the rumblings had reached the ears of the Butler administration. In the late evening on March 27, Ross reached out to Patel to discuss the event.

Neader said that Ross had been made aware of the situation on Friday, when Forrest had texted him.

“Since student government is listed as the sponsor for the event, I wanted to get details and a better understanding of what they knew about the event,” Ross said to The Collegian on April 2. 

Ross said that the main concerns discussed by Patel in their conversation were procedural and financial. There was no mention during that meeting of Davis’ political affiliations or support of BDS, Ross said.

On March 28, Gigerich was asked to join a Zoom meeting with Ross and Patel, at which he shared that he had been contacted by a student and several senators — including Carrier and Kohnke — who had further concerns about the event.

The Zoom room where it happened 

On the morning of March 29, Patel messaged Forrest, Neader, Hudson and Daas asking for an emergency meeting. From what Forrest observed, Patel was acutely aware of Kohnke’s resolution, and the dangerous repercussions it could have for student government seemed nothing short of panic-inducing.

In short order, Patel, Forrest, Neader and Hudson confirmed a 12:30 Zoom call; Daas was not invited to that meeting. 

Patel explained the situation to her colleagues, who rapidly decided to send the information up the chain. Forrest said Patel was “pretty sure” the resolution removing SGA’s support for the Davis event was going to pass at Wednesday’s Senate meeting. The other administrators agreed.

The contract signed with Davis’ agency allowed either party to postpone the event without repercussions up until three days before — with the mutual understanding that the canceling party would try to reschedule. However, if Butler canceled the event less than three days before the event, they would still owe Davis the full honorarium.

The group had an important decision to make: Should they risk that the resolution would pass, thus pulling SGA funding and canceling the April 1 event with the full honorarium still due? Or should they cancel the April 1 date while they still had more than three days — and try to reschedule? They decided they needed to talk with Ross. 

Ross was pulled into the ongoing Zoom meeting with Patel, Neader, Forrest and Hudson to help address the situation and play out possible scenarios.

Ross had been informally apprised of the situation in his meeting with Patel and Gigerich the previous day, but the group took the time to catch him up. Forrest said she and the others explained the context of Kohnke’s resolution and the entirety of its background to Ross, including explaining that both Kohnke and Gigerich had spoken to Jewish students who had concerns with SGA funding the honorarium. 

The resolution had not yet physically existed — Kohnke had not drafted and submitted it to Gigerich at the time that the SGA advisors, Patel and Ross were meeting. As a result, the concerns were not officially made “formal,” meaning all of the conversations surrounding the resolution’s content and background were “informal.” To Ross, there is a significant difference. 

“I hear on a daily basis: concerns from a number of constituents, obviously, including students,” Ross said. “You know, I mean, informal concerns are something very different than if a formal complaint had been logged, or a formal petition, for example, so I don’t know that I ever talk in general terms about informal concerns.”

Ross said this was the reason he had refrained from addressing the growing trickle of informal concerns until that point. His hesitance stemmed from the sheer volume of complaints Ross hears and assesses every day.

Neader and Ross both said to The Collegian that the main priority of the Monday meeting — and the driving force behind it — was to figure out if the policies and procedures were followed. 

It was decided that they were not. 

“We found that we didn’t adhere to processes,” Neader said. “Is that the reason that we canceled? Yes. In the back of all of our minds, did we know that there might have been an issue with Israel versus Palestine? Yeah, it was back there. I don’t know how much that decision came into play. It’s hard not to know that information.”

In Ross’ official statement to the student body, he said that the only points of concern referenced in the meeting were procedural and financial.

“I will say: Lately, I’ve heard specifically allegations that members of the Jewish community have voiced concerns, and I will say to my knowledge, no one had come forth and issued a [formal] complaint or requested the program be altered or canceled in any way,” Ross said to The Collegian on April 2.

Ross’ assertion, provided to The Collegian in an April 2 interview, is directly disputed by Forrest.

Additionally, though Ross joined the Zoom call midway through, Forrest said she and the others took the time to explain the full list of reasons why Kohnke had decided to draft a resolution. 

“[Ross] gets on the phone and we say, ‘Here’s where we are… We don’t know what to do. There’s this resolution. If the resolution passes, it’ll be canceled,'” Forrest said. “What was said [to Ross] was: We know that there were Jewish students who had gone to their senator and asked for this to be stopped, sponsorship funding pulled… It was very clear that there are some Jewish students who are hurt by this event, they went to their senator, their senator was going to write a resolution to help make this end. That was said in the meeting.” 

Though acknowledging the background information, Forrest said, Ross’ focus aligned with Patel’s: whether all the policies and procedures had been followed. In spite of Forrest’s protestations that to her knowledge both she and Daas had followed the guidelines properly, a lack of compliance with procedural protocol was the deciding factor in calling off the event.

Neader clarified that cancellation of the event was never the favored option; and, once Davis’ team confirmed they could begin rescheduling the event, the decision was made to immediately postpone. 

“We immediately, before anything was released, switched to ‘postpone,’” Neader said. “So the word ‘cancellation’ did not happen… was used for maybe 15 minutes. Because that’s what that’s what the contract says. You can cancel within three days. But right, once we figured out we can postpone, we automatically went there because — I will speak for myself — my intent was never to cancel Angela Davis.”

Ross said the room’s decision was officially a postponement; he believes the interchangeable use of the words “cancellation” and “postponement” in casual communication were the cause of the confusion.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

Then, the hardest part: telling Daas. Forrest and Hudson shared the news in a 3 p.m. Zoom call with her later that evening.

“… I tell Roua, ‘I’ve got bad news. I don’t know how to tell you, but there is no Angela Davis coming,’” Forrest said. “… She says, ‘No, really.’ And I said, ‘Roua, no, she’s not coming.’ She says, ‘Gina, wait, she’s not coming?’ I mean, we go through this, I think, like eight or 10 times back and forth before it sets in that she knows I’m not kidding, and now she’s crying. And of course I tell her I’m sorry. She asked me why, and I tell her everything.”

Forrest told Daas that on top of the failure to follow protocol, attendees at the decision-making meeting brought up concerns that Kohnke’s resolution to pull SGA’s sponsorship of the event would pass at the March 31 Senate meeting.

If the resolution passed, the SGA budget would no longer pay for Davis, meaning there was no money to pay the honorarium. If the funding was pulled a day before the event, SGA would be forced to find the full amount of the honorarium elsewhere in the budget — a “five-figure sum,” according to Ross’s email statement.

In fairness, this was the financial commitment Daas had planned for. DEIB’s budget for this academic year is $53,000. As a subsidiary of SGA, its budget is approved within the comprehensive SGA budget at the end of the previous academic year. The line items in that budget included $29,000 reserved exclusively for speakers and special events. 

In an email, Patel clarified that SGA never said Daas couldn’t use her budget to fund Davis’ event. According to SGA, Daas just needed to notify the vice president of finance for accurate “bookkeeping.”

This process is supposed to happen via the vice president of SGA, currently Victoria Combs. Other SGA board chairs who will remain anonymous said they communicate what events they’re planning and how much money they’re spending from their budgets at their weekly board chair meetings. 

One of SGA’s concerns with the Davis event was that it breached a clause in the SGA Constitution requiring boards to notify the vice president of finance if their expenditure exceeds $500. 

Combs said she wasn’t notified of the price tag for the Davis event. 

“[Roua] just let myself and the directors know that DEIB was working to bring Angela Davis to Butler, and I believe that she began talking about this in February,” Combs said in an email interview with The Collegian. 

The fact the dollar amount of the honorarium never made its way from Combs to the vice president of finance was another procedural breach, according to SGA, even if Daas could use her budget to pay. 

Daas was not aware of this procedure.

Collazo is a senior elementary education major who has been on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board for two years. Collazo maintains that in the past, DEIB has not been required to receive approval for any expenditures. While SGA claims that DEIB violated this clause in the planning of the Davis event by failing to notify them of the expenditure, Collazo said this rule has never been enforced before. 

“The money that we use to book Angela Davis is our funding — never, ever before did it need to be approved by Senate, no matter the dollar amount,” Collazo said.

Both the fund and the form breaches were those that SGA cited in cancelling the event.

After breaking the news to Daas, a flurry of emails and text messages from members of the administration confirmed with other involved parties that the contract with Davis had been terminated and there was no further plan to bring the speaker to campus.

 

Forrest sent an email to Carol Baker, Butler’s CORE Curriculum program coordinator, and Terri Jett, a political science professor and director of the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement indicating the event was canceled. Also drawn into the conversation were Ross, and Neader.

Daas corroborated the cancelation of Davis’ April 1 event with Davis’ team in an email directly following her communication with Forrest and Hudson. 

The moment of ignition

On March 30, Daas published a Letter to the Editor in The Butler Collegian detailing her perspective of what had happened. After the letter was widely shared, Ross responded with a statement of his own on April 1 disputing claims made about the event’s cancellation, clarifying its postponement and citing procedural errors.

“Allegations that the event was canceled due to pressure from students who had concerns about the speaker and the content of the program are completely false,” Ross’ statement to the entire Butler community said. 

The next day, SGA senior leadership published their own statement detailing their knowledge of the Davis event and again citing a failure to follow procedure as the reason the programming was discontinued. 

On April 1, Hillel published a Letter to the Editor in The Butler Collegian expressing their side of the story and clarifying that their concerns were always whether or not Davis should be sponsored by SGA funds. 

Amid confusion and turmoil on campus, Ross issued a second statement on April 2 apologizing for the administration’s initial reactionary communication. 

“I want to express my sincere apologies on behalf of the administration as we could have done a better job of managing this situation and addressing it in a more timely manner,” his statement said. “We know that we can’t undo the damage that has been done, but we can acknowledge when we must do better, and do what we believe is the right thing going forward.”

Many members of the community are still reeling from the fallout of the cancellation and the consequent series of communications. Some, like Daas and students involved in Hillel, have been vocal about their outrage. 

Others have quietly suffered the repercussions.

Forrest has since come under fire for her role in the proceedings, including accusations that she blamed Hillel for the canceled event and referred to Kohnke as “a Zionist Senator.” In a chain of emails shared anonymously and addressed to nearly a dozen faculty and staff members — including university President James Danko — Forrest denied the claims.

 

 

Ross responded to an email chain with several administrators raising concern about the Angela Davis event response. Brooke Beloso, a professor in the Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department, responded to Ross in the same email chain.

“I never said ‘a Zionist senator,'” Forrest said. “I was told there were a few Jewish students who contacted their senator to discuss their concerns about Angela Davis. The senator — I don’t know who or how many — said they would write a resolution that would go to a vote on Wednesday. Based on what the senators were saying, it was very likely that it would pass to remove the funding.”

As for the claim about Hillel, Forrest asserted that this was the information that had been told to her. 

Forrest said she was terrified she would lose her job. As a woman of color watching other women of color come under fire, Forrest said, the ordeal was both exhausting and nerve-wracking. 

“This feels racial,” Forrest said. “Now those are my words, but I can tell you, as a Black woman, this feels racial. And that one group is trying to silence another group.”

Visions of [very different] futures

Ross said the university is working to present Davis as a speaker this semester, with funds coming from the general university budget. Therefore, SGA’s budget — comprised of student funds — will not be paying for the event. 

As of this publication, the Butler community is waiting on a rescheduled date from the administration for the Davis event.

“I know that Angela Davis speaking on our campus isn’t going to fix everything, but that is a very, very important step in this horrible situation — quite honestly — that has hurt a lot of people,” Ross said. “I want her to speak here, I want Roua to be able to host this program as she planned. And I want to be able to do it in a way that allows everyone who wants to engage in this event to do so.”

Ross is now also working on piecing together a complete picture of what happened. He feels that a significant breakdown in communication has led to “tremendous misunderstanding… finger-pointing and hurt.”

“… I don’t want to see any of our students hurt,” Ross said. “And it just, it’s hurting me so much to know that our students are being pained by the situation. And I just, I want us to be able to move forward and so we can begin healing because there’s a lot of healing that needs to happen after the past week.” 

Moving forward, Ross said he wants to work with SGA representatives and their advisors to achieve two things: make sure the procedures and processes are clearer and that everyone understands them in order to be able to bring speakers to campus. 

Additionally, Ross said the student affairs department needs to encourage students to have intentional conversations — in spite of differences. 

“Part of our role within student affairs is helping students, giving them space within student organizations and student groups on campus to be critically thinking and challenging each other, and disagreeing and doing so in a respectful way,” Ross said. “But then… After you’ve had your discussion, and you disagree, how do you move forward and have you still engage as students, or students in an organization, or students across organizations?”

To Ross, this is the most important takeaway for all parties involved. 

For some administrators, however, Ross’ planned course of action does not go far enough.

In an email chain shared by an anonymous source, Brooke Beloso — a professor in the Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department — criticized Ross and other members of upper administration for failing to work toward a larger solution.

“This feels so grossly unjust that those of us who are not personally implicated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are pouring salt in wounds left and right for the purpose of shirking responsibility,” Beloso said in her email. “The only way to prevent our Jewish and Palestinian students from taking the fall here is for administration to publicly confess and apologize. As I see it, no student or student group was in the wrong here; but the administration was and is indeed still in the wrong.”

From Forrest’s perspective, the administration needs to apologize to all students impacted: to Daas, the Black community, the Jewish community and all other students who wanted to hear Angela Davis speak. 

Ross and other administrators responsible need to admit they did not handle this correctly, miscommunicated and were not transparent, Forrest said. 

“I want the truth to come out,” Forrest said. “I don’t want Jewish students blamed. I don’t want Roua blamed. I kept quiet because I thought, ‘I can take the blame,’ right. … But now, no. The truth needs to just be told, ‘this is the truth.’ Let’s be transparent. Again, I do believe in restorative justice, and when you have restorative justice you speak the truth, you learn from your mistakes, you apologize, you repair your relationship. You can’t do that if you’re not speaking the truth.” 

 

News Editor Ellie Allen, Co-Opinion Editor Emma Beavins, Sports Editor Drew Sandifer and Assistant Sports Editor Henry Bredemeier contributed to this story. 

Angela Davis’ team could not be reached for comment for this story.

Corrections since publication at 4:11 a.m. on April 5: 

  • ORIGINAL: Roua Daas said the university canceled the virtual event because of paperwork mistakes and funding issues, ones she denies occurred.
    • CHANGE: Roua Daas said the university canceled the virtual event because of paperwork mistakes and funding issues, ones she said she didn’t know existed and hadn’t been enforced
  • Correction: Daas was not invited to the Monday meeting with Patel, Forrest, Neader and Hudson — previously, The Collegian reported that Daas was invited but could not attend.
  • Correction: The Zoom call between Forrest, Hudson and Daas was at 3 p.m. not 5 p.m. 
  • ORIGINAL: The Senate form was created in the spring of 2020 after a controversial event about LGBTQ+ life in Israel — often called “pinkwashing” by LGBTQ+ activists — sparked outrage on campus. Through the form, the Senate hoped to approve of any speakers and partners that SGA sponsors. After backlash from the board chairs, the form was overhauled on Nov. 18, 2020. The new clause stated that while senators must be notified of the event, they do not have to approve it.
    • CHANGE: The Senate form was created in October 2020 after a controversial event, “Safe Protesting and Boycott 101,” sparked outrage on campus. Through the form, the Senate hoped to approve of any speakers and partners that SGA sponsors. After response from the board chairs, the form was overhauled on Nov. 18, 2020. The new clause stated that while senators must be notified of the event, they do not have to approve it.
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