Walkout receives mixed reactions

One response to the event was a ‘Walk Up’ hosted by College Republicans

Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | Approximately 450 people participated in Friday’s Walkout to remember victims of school shootings. The Walkout included the reading of the names of those killed in the Columbine and Stoneman Douglas shootings.

Last Friday, approximately 450 people attended Xavier’s “We Will Not Be Next National School Walkout” organized by the Student Government Association (SGA) executives. The vigil included reading the names of the 30 students and teachers who died at Columbine and Stoneman Douglas High Schools. The Walkout was an SGA executive project with willing senators’ involvement to help ensure that, despite a recent uptick in school shootings, Xavier will not be next.

Commencing at 11:19 a.m. on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, students walked out from residence halls, meeting places and most importantly, according to SGA Senator and Student Organizations Committee Chair Ellen Rakowski, classrooms.

“This walkout (was) to disrupt class to bring attention to the senseless loss of life due to gun violence in schools,” Rakowski said.

The walkout came in two parts: a vigil and a call for reform. Five hundred shirts stating “we will not be next” were handed out, and 543 letters calling for the approval of Ohio Senate Bill 260 were signed. The letter and the reform aspect were a group of senators’ personal project. Rakowski said the letter “calls for (a) firearm and ammunition transaction database and the ban on military grade assault-style weapons.”

For SGA Vice President Brianna Boyce, the Walkout hit close to home.

“(Physically walking out) brings attention to something that…was my reality,” Boyce said. “I was used to being in lock-downs, hiding in a corner, making sure that you weren’t seen. I don’t want other students to have that feeling.”

For some participants, like junior Gabriella Lisi, the Walkout drew attention to fears they already had regarding campus safety.

“I would be lying to say that I am fearless when I walk through the glass-lined walls of Alter,” Lisi said.

Overall, however, “Xavier is a very safe campus,” Chief of Police Daniel Hect said. “We are doing a lot already…The whole goal there is to find a way to interrupt the pathway to violence…You’ll see a lot of different things roll out next year as far as active shooter, targeted active violence, high risk (and) low frequency instances on college campuses.”

Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success Aaron Meis said the Walkout demonstrated Xavier’s commitment to its Jesuit heritage.

“High school and college students who choose to participate in lawful demonstrations against gun violence…are demonstrating that they are ‘women and men for and with others’ in the Ignatian tradition,” Meis said.

Xavier Admissions tweeted that participants from the class of 2022 “will not be penalized by Xavier in the admissions process” for their participation in similar events nationwide. Professors were encouraged, but not required, to allow students to participate in the Walkout.

At the Walkout, juniors Miah McLaurin and Deshayla Mitchem held a sign that read “When’s our Walkout? #BlackLivesMatter.”

“It’s really important to include the people who started this movement,” McLaurin said. “(Gun violence) has disproportionately affected Black and brown bodies for centuries, and it would be incredibly misaligned to not include this as a part of the conversation.”

SGA Vice President Cole Stautberg said prior that the organizers “do recognize that this is not the only form of gun violence, that gun violence adversely affects a lot of different communities.”

In response to the walkout, Xavier University College Republicans (XUCR) planned its own “Walk Up” during which members handed out “encouragement cards.” The event was non-combative and took place that same Friday.

“The walkout might be a little bit more politically polarizing,” XUCR Vice President Lily Hutkowski said. “Our goal (was) to encourage students…in a way that includes the most people.”

The Walk Up discouraged missing or disrupting class. XUCR President Cole Branham explained that for him and other members, the walkout wasn’t the solution.

“The point of the cards is taking the higher road,” Branham said. “Rather than be divisive and derogatory,…(the purpose is) to be uplifting and encouraging.”

Branham also said that he believed the Walk Up differed from the Walkout in that it was “something we can all rally behind.”

Another aspect that differentiated the two events was the inclusion of focus on mental health. Hect said that he had asked SGA to include a mental health focus “because it is not just a gun issue.” While the Walkout didn’t focus on mental health, the Walk Up had information on psychological services available.

XUCR also critiqued the lack of consensus among SGA members regarding the funding for the event. Tyler Harmon, who abstained from the vote in which the senate approved moving money to the project fund for extra security, explained his thought process.

“I didn’t want to say no to extra security. I’m for everyone’s safety,” Harmon said. “I abstained because I didn’t want to say no to that, but also it was for the Walkout, and I didn’t want to say yes to that.”

While Harmon felt that the Walkout was “more of a politicized event,” he felt that the Walk Up dealt with the “bullying aspect” of gun violence and would be “more impactful than the Walkout and the call to action.”

Srsich contended in turn that the reforms they called for were not partisan.

By: Brittany Wells ~Staff Writer~