Students and faculty protest Deters

Take It On leads faculty meeting with Deters, students picnic outside

By Katie Sanchez, Print Managing Editor

Approximately two dozen students and faculty members gathered yesterday to protest the appointment of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Joe Deters to Justice in Residence at Xavier. 

The students and faculty members gathered on the lawn of the Alumni Center, where a Take It On Initiative dialogue event between faculty members and Deters was taking place. This event was in conjunction with a similar Take It On event centered around Ignatian civic dialogue held approximately two weeks ago that was designed to allow student leaders to speak with Deters about their concerns regarding his appointment. 

These concerns, expressed by students, faculty, alumni and other community members in the two months since the announcement of Deters’ appointment, include opposition to previous statements made by Deters during his tenure as Hamilton County Prosecutor that have been criticized as racist and opposed to Catholic social teaching. The protest was also intended to be a demonstration of the student voices that protestors felt were not being heard or responded to by the university administration. 

Newswire photo courtesy of Katie Sanchez

Students protested the administration’s response to the controversy surrounding the appointment of Justice Joe Deters as Justice in Residence both outside and inside of the Alumni Center yesterday.  

“I think it would be a win if the administration actually has an open conversation with students about (Deters’) appointment and hears student concerns in person and responds to them,” Chair of the Department of Race, Intersectionality, Gender and Sociology and English professor Dr. Kristen Renzi said about her hopes for the protest.

“We’re hopeful that the university decides to actually engage publicly with students and hopefully decide to defend student voices instead of staying silent,” Ethan Nichols, a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public and English double major and an organizer of the protest, commented.

Food and beverages provided for the event were purchased using funding given by faculty members. Students also made signs with messages of protest that were displayed outside the Alumni Center. 

Once the Take It On meeting began inside the Alumni Center, students gathered outside the Surkamp Family Room and continued to protest. The dialogue event was a private event and closed to students, but students quietly observed the event, watching and listening to roughly two dozen faculty members speak with Deters about their concerns through the room’s glass doors and windows.

Several faculty members expressed frustration about the conversation that took place during the event.

“I think on the whole, it’s not entirely clear what we were able to accomplish, aside from the faculty getting a clearer understanding of how Justice Deters sees his role as Justice in Residence,” theology professor Dr. Marcus Mescher said. “I don’t know that it was really a successful dialogue because it didn’t seem like there was mutual understanding.”  

Political science professor and Director of the Take It On initiative Dr. Mack Mariani commented that the passion of the faculty involved in the discussion ultimately led to a robust conversation. 

“There are people who are passionate about this, and of course that’s as it should be. But I think it was a respectful and thoughtful conversation,” he said. 

Newswire photo courtesy of Katie Sanchez

This is the second event in recent weeks that Deters has attended in order to engage in dialogue with members of the Xavier community. Deters commented that this recent session with faculty resulted in a good discussion. 

“I hope that everybody comes to appreciate where we all came from, and I think I’m very optimistic about engaging with the students here and with the educators,” Deters said.

While Dr. Colleen Hanycz, president, was not in attendance at the Take It On event yesterday, she commented on it and the accompanying protest.

“Xavier’s mission necessitates a commitment to academic freedom and the encouragement of a broad diversity of ideas on our campus. When we host events on campus, including today’s Take it On event, that commitment must also include a parallel commitment to making space for protest and counter speech, provided that those do not disrupt the hosted event,” Hanycz said. 

“I am confident that our Xavier students, supported by our faculty and staff colleagues, will share their views – whatever those views might be – in a way that advances our commitment to campus diversity and also permits the scheduled event to proceed. I am pleased to witness our students’ ongoing dedication to Xavier,” the president concluded.