Nothing says “unity” quite like a rebellion. On Thursday following a long summer and semester of faculty changes and unanswered questions, dozens of students in the Hope College music department organized a rally to show support for their professors, several of whom have been suspended, investigated, demoted and asked not to return for the current semester. The affected professors had to deal with all of the above with little to no explanation from the administration, and the students said they were fed up with this treatment toward their professors. During community hour on Thursday, students involved in the music department and supporters from other areas of study gathered in the lobby of Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. Many students wore T-shirts displaying the names of two of their professors, Dr. Robert Hodson and Dr. Brad Richmond, both of whom were suspended for the current semester and whose absence in the department is felt every day.
Along with the students, there were several faculty members from around the campus, as well as Hope alumni and reporters from several local news stations, all ready to show their support to the hurting department. The rally began with a song led by Hope Chapel Choir members called “I Paradisi,” a piece arranged by Dr. Richmond. Following the song, members of the rally began their march around campus, waving their signs and singing for all to hear. Students ended their march in the Pine Grove, forming a semi-circle in the President’s backyard, where they were encouraged to step forward and share their reasons for marching. To conclude the event, “I Paradisi” was sung for a final time.
The ultimate goal of the rally was to show support for the professors, bring awareness of the situation to the rest of Hope’s population and to get answers from the administration as to why so many drastic changes were taking place. One student, Justin Merriman (’19), summed up the feelings of the students, saying “all we as students want is clarity on why things are happening the way that they are, and we want to be assured by Hope that the quality of our music education is not deteriorating.” Merriman, a music minor and member of the folk area of the music department, has been studying under Dr. Brian Coyle, who recently lost his title as head of the jazz music area, as well as Dr. Hodson, since his freshman year.
As a member of the first class of students to study all four years in the new music building, Merriman has seen the department change drastically over the last few months. He says, “To see how things have retrogressed from that initial state of joy in celebrating all types of music to where we are today is very disheartening.” Merriman is not the only student who feels this way; several students within the music department, in the sophomore class especially, have considered transferring if the changes are not resolved in a timely manner. One thing is for certain though: the students are not happy and they will not rest until the administration acknowledges their frustrations and works towards having a more open line of communication with students regarding their education.