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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Successive student-led protest calls for no confidence vote by faculty

Gabrielle Caumon / Hilltop Views
Associate Professor of Social Work Adam McCormick, Ph.D, speaks to students at the protest on Feb. 27 outside of Ragsdale. Students protested for nearly eight hours on the university’s Seal in response to the Pride flag being removed from the campus coffee shop last semester.

A second student-led protest is occurring tomorrow on the university Seal at 1:30 p.m. as a response to a call to action. The post advertising the protest on Instagram says the purpose of the subsequent protest is to “demand a vote of ‘no confidence’ for President (Montserrat) Fuentes and Provost Marianne Ward-Peradoza.”

“We are basically calling for the removal of President Fuentes and the Provost and, really, I kind of envisioned it coming to that at some point,” junior Mackenna Bierschenk said. “It’s been pretty obvious to me that President Fuentes doesn’t necessarily value the feelings of the students that much, because if she did, she would have put the Pride flag back up. And it’s obvious to me that what she cares about at the end of the day is [the] reputation of both the place she works at and herself.” 

Votes of no confidence are faculty-driven and symbolize severe criticism of a university’s president. Some universities have formal guidelines as to who is able to participate in voting, but it is unclear what system St. Edward’s University uses.

Tomorrow’s protest takes place just before and during a Faculty Senate meeting which commences at 2 p.m. The issues students have continued to advocate for since last week are currently not listed on the meetings agenda. 

“Obviously that is also kind of the goal of the protest tomorrow, really just to make more of a public statement as a student body of what we want,” Bierschenk said. “But honestly, I think that no confidence vote is going to happen.”

Today, Bierschenk sent out an email to all faculty urging them to vote no confidence, citing an ongoing petition with over 800 signatures and a letter to administration that was passed around during Tuesday’s day-long, peaceful protest with over 430 protester signatures.

“I have truly been inspired by the courage and authenticity of the student leaders in the face of such adversity this week,” Associate Professor Adam McCormick said in an email response to Bierschenk and faculty. “This community desperately needed bold and courageous leadership and we got it. While I am not on the faculty senate, should they move to do anything to stand up for our LGBTQ+ community, you can count on my unwavering support. I’m truly disheartened that you all have not heard from the administration yet. I can speak for so many of my colleagues when I say that there is nothing more important to us than the dignity, humanity and authenticity of our students.”

During Tuesday’s protest, several faculty and staff members spoke, including Associate Professor of Communication Teri Varner, Ph.D. In Varner’s speech, she stated she had given Fuentes an ultimatum of her own.

“You are not in this alone,” Varner said. “You never were alone, and that’s why you are here. And I want you all to remember that you are welcome here, and that’s why I teach here. And if they can’t get behind that, then I cannot stay.”

A spokesperson from Republican Sen. Brandon Creighton’s office, the author of Senate Bill 17, said a Pride flag “would not be covered under the new law,” according to a report from CBS Austin on Monday. 

“I think that (the Progress flag) is a sign of not only safety, but it’s a sign of revolution,” junior Indigo Lane said. “Having that flag up means that we’re not going to be confined, and I think that that’s really important, especially for a private institution like St. Ed’s. I am hoping that they will put the pride flag back up. I don’t know if that’s actually gonna happen … but I am hopeful that we are making waves.”

Several student organizations, like Disabled Students Organization, Feminist Leadership in Practice, Topper Radio, SEU Psych Society and Students for Sustainability, are taking their voices to social media, posting calls to action and acknowledging the ongoing student advocacy. 

“I think that a lot of it is really scary, but if I don’t do it, then I don’t know who will,” Lane said. “I have had to hide for most of my life; I’ve had to be in the closet for most of my life for my own safety, and when I came to college, I came out and I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I think that it’s so, so important for students to feel seen and safe here. I think that (the university) taking down the Pride flag was them making us in danger again, and that is something that can’t happen. Students need to feel safe here, and I think that if anything that I do is making an infinitesimal amount of progress, I think that it’s worth it, even if it is scary.”

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About the Contributors
Claire Lawrence
Claire Lawrence, Editor-in-Chief
Claire is a senior Communication major with a minor in Journalism continuing to dedicate her time growing and learning as a student journalist. Claire has been with Hilltop Views for three years. This is her second year as Editor-in-Chief. Previously, she served as a Staff Writer and as News Editor. Outside of St. Edward's, Claire plays bass in Austin-local band "Losers." Though she is graduating soon, she hopes to leave her mark in the newsroom and inspire other students to get involved with their campus paper.
Hailey Womack
Hailey Womack, News Editor
Hailey Womack is a junior English major with a minor in Journalism & Digital Media. This is her third semester with Hilltop Views and her first year as News Editor. She's very passionate about the Austin area, as she has been a native all of her life. When not reading romantic period books, she enjoys playing basketball.

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    Molly WangMar 1, 2024 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for covering the developments and elevating voices of various students impacted. Reading this article gave me more insight into what the flag represents to students.