WILMINGTON — Students, alumni and others came out despite the rain to support improvements and solidarity at Wilmington College.
On Wednesday, Wilmington College Amnesty International and Students for Action and Solidarity hosted “WC Community Conversation” and a protest near the Bell Tower. The event was to show solidarity with the college community and to learn how to organize a protest.
In a letter to WC President Dr. Trevor Bates and the Board of Trustees, members of the organizing committee for Students for Action and Solidarity presented four needs/requests: for faculty and staff to be paid better wages; Title IX Coordinator position must be independent of the Office of Student Affairs to allow separate investigations and general discipline; a specialized individual needs to be hired to serve the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and the need for more personnel at the Office of Disability Services and a side entrance ramp for the campus library.
“These issues are putting in jeopardy the College’s Quakerism and institutional mission rooted in community and education. We have realized that our silence makes us complicit in these failures of purpose and their resulting injustice,” the letter states.
Lucy Enge, a senior at the college and one of the committee members, told the News Journal the group feels it is a “moral disgrace” to not pay the faculty and staff a living wage.
Enge acknowledges that money is limited and there are large expenses in operating the college, but that “faculty and staff pay must be a matter of top priority rather than so much money being devoted to the administration,” she said. “Additionally, the College has received two multimillion-dollar gifts to the endowment totaling $30.3 million last year—one of which at $ 16.8 million is unrestricted. This is a matter of priorities and putting our Quaker faith as a Quaker college with particular regards to the testimony of integrity into action.”
She cited an article from insidehighered.com that ranks the average salaries for professors, with Wilmington College ranked closer to the bottom.
“Living wage we would define as being paid a wage that meets one’s needs and level of expertise, which is a human right,” she added.
In a response letter, Bates said he feels faculty payment isn’t appropriate to be discussed with students. He added, “It is an abuse of positional power to weaponize students to do the bidding of College employees who may be unsatisfied with their employment situation.”
He also advised that his “one-on-one meetings with faculty and staff” showed that “overwhelmingly, colleagues are happy to be here at WC.”
Bates also stated in the letter, “I am compelled to take this opportunity to offer some needed clarity and accuracy to address some perhaps well-intentioned but misinformed information that has recently been shared on and beyond campus.”
He added he hopes “community members who are inciting divisiveness will change course and use their time and energy to find ways to help and not harm” the college.
“To have someone say that to us and use that language that was incredibly hurtful,” said Enge. “We are a non-violent protest .. this is not a matter taken lightly. We are taking out our own time because this matters to us,” said Enge.
She told the News Journal that conversations have been started and that they have been professional. She believes people will be willing to listen.
Local resident Alex Rhinehart, a former assistant professor of sport sciences, voiced his support for the protest. Rhinehart left the college in 2017 for “multi-factorial” reasons — one of which was pay.
“The voice that needs to be heard is the voice of the students living the learned Quaker ideals of social justice as they stand in solidarity with their professors and college staff over concerns about fair salaries and with fellow students over equality and safety,” he said. “I’m simply an ally amplifying their voice. I have seen the issues of concern from the student, alumnus, and faculty perspective, and I sympathize with the students’ concerns.”
He added that in today’s higher education climate, every institution faces a mountain of obstacles, and Wilmington College is no different. He thinks the breaking point for the students was the “egregious delay in addressing many of the issues,” which have been long-standing, such as competitive faculty pay.