This past Thursday, 95 Stories, a campus group dedicated to communicating the problems faced by LBTQ+ and students of color, held a demonstration at the Haworth Inn, the site of Hope College’s board meeting that morning. Those participating in the demonstration arrived as early as 7:15 a.m., positioning themselves at the entrance so that board members would have no choice but to walk directly past them to enter the building for 8:30 a.m. board meeting. Demonstrators wielded posters with stories of homophobia and racism on campus, creating a very powerful scene that board members were forced to confront as they prepared to discuss what campus issues would be tackled next. “Things on Hope’s campus are not okay, but it is very easy for majority people to be blind to the racism and homophobia we face every day,” said one of the demonstrators, who chose to remain anonymous. “The purpose of the demonstration this morning was to force The Board of Trustees to see student faces and the atrocious experiences we have endured…the proposals are not just words on the page; they are about our lives and well-being.”
Last May, 95 Stories submitted a list of eight proposals to the college’s Board of Trustees. The board decided not to discuss these issues back then, instead opting to discuss them at the October board meeting. However, on the morning of last week’s meeting, none of the eight proposals were on the Board’s list of discussion topics, instead putting them off again, until January 2019’s board meeting. This was the catalyst for Thursday’s demonstration, as demonstrators said that they felt that they had to demonstrate the importance of these issues. “Dialogue is vital. But from our experiences with dialogue, Hope likes to keep the peace and are therefore kind to our faces but no change really happens,” says this anonymous demonstrator. “It was necessary to show the board of trustees how…pressing these proposals are.”
Despite the Board’s plan to postpone discussion of the proposals made by 95 Stories, many of the board members did make time to stop and talk with the demonstrators. “Many [board members] went along the entire line of us, reading [our stories] and introducing themselves to [us]. They [also] told us how impressed they were at our dedication… this warmed my heart tremendously. I now have a strong hope that… together, we will be able to make a change on Hope’s campus,” the anonymous demonstrator said. Until January’s meeting, we will have to wait and see what happens regarding the eight proposals. However, we can hope from Thursday’s demonstration and the receptiveness of the board members present, that steps will be taken towards creating a more accepting campus for all students.