The Northwestern State University Student Government Association issued a statement on Aug. 13 vocalizing that “[SGA] stands… against the acts of hatred, bigotry, and violence” in response to events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
SGA President Otha “Tre” Nelson said the organization issued the statement to reassure the community of their policies and support of inclusivity.
“[This is] an issue that is relevant, and we need to make sure we’re on our toes,” he said.
NSU’s policies are located in the Student Handbook, which includes the Notice of Non-Discrimination and Student Code of Conduct. The Classroom Civility Statement which prefaces the code of conduct is also required on course syllabi.
The Notice of Non-Discrimination states the following: “The University is committed to equal opportunity for student success… [and] does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, [or] disability…”
University President Dr. Chris Maggio said NSU agrees “one hundred percent” with Nelson’s statement and that diversity is what makes this university strong.
“We have a wonderful culture here at Northwestern… I know we have a caring university that respects all people and wants to see everybody succeed,” he said.
Although Charlottesville is more than 1,000 miles away from Natchitoches, controversy about Confederate statue removal is nothing new to Louisiana. Debates have taken place in cities from Shreveport to New Orleans, resulting in the removal of monuments from several areas.
“Something like [the protests in Charlottesville] could conceivably happen [here], and in the event that we do have a group protesting on campus, we’ve taken measures on how to get the student body informed and how to make sure [the situation] doesn’t escalate,” Nelson said.
NSU’s Policy on Public Speech, Assembly and Demonstrations outlines the university’s stance on circumstances such as protests, which must be peaceful in manner. The policy also states that “no harmful acts, destruction or defacement of property, physical assaults or threats thereof” are permitted.
Nelson said SGA will be active in ensuring the protection and success of all students.
“We [will] keep supporting different social groups that are actively supporting equality,” he said. “In the event that we do see something spark up… we will actively pursue that and not just sit back.”
Maggio also emphasized the importance of working through any situation and talking freely about all issues.
“My philosophy is open communication,” he said. “We don’t always have to agree… but [we have to have] constructive dialogue, not rhetoric.”