Student Activists Storm Faculty Meeting

Written by Rowley on April 5th, 2013

A group of around thirty-five students stormed this afternoon’s faculty meeting as part of a protest against Cynthia Carroll’s scheduled commencement speech. The protest was organized by seniors Danny Pforte and Jovany Andujar with the expressed purpose of garnering faculty support in opposing Carroll as a speaker.

A graduate of the Skidmore Class of 1978, Carroll is the former CEO of Anglo American plc, the fifth-largest mining company in the world. While her supporters have called her a model speaker as one of the most powerful women in the corporate world, her detractors have accused her of executing neocolonial, environmentally disastrous policies during her tenure at Anglo American. Luke Conley ’14 has penned an eloquent and level-headed takedown of Carroll in The Skidmore News (a welcome counterpoint to prior op-eds praising Carroll) and a pamphlet distributed at the protest highlighted the mining company’s alleged violations, from widespread environmental degradation to human rights abuses, including the censorship of information related to the 1977 death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko.

The protest began when the students rushed into the meeting in Gannett at around 3:35. Pforte and Andujar moved towards the front of the auditorium and took over a microphone, interrupting President Glotzbach’s opening remarks. Andujar then launched into a prepared speech that passionately attacked the Administration for its perceived lack of sensitivity and awareness, while asking the faculty for help in voicing opposition.

“Our student voice is not being properly heard,” he said. “Our concerns are not being properly dealt with. If we continue to be dismissed and silenced, we will create some form of protest at graduation.”

Pforte then took the microphone, reciting the activist group United Minds’ platform against Carroll and Anglo American. He claimed that having Carroll deliver a speech at commencement “goes against the critical thought and social responsibility we have been told we would acquire from our four years at Skidmore College.”

He went on to discuss Carroll’s role in alleged abuses committed by the company.

“We believe that Cynthia Carroll’s corporate affiliations and positions at BP Oil and Anglo American tells us that she bares responsibility for the inhumane and unjust practices that have displaced communities, killed countless human beings directly or indirectly through war and oppressive working conditions, and destroyed the global environment,” he said.

During the speeches, the students assembled in the back of the auditorium applauded, while members of faculty listened patiently. As the speeches concluded, President Glotzbach expressed his admiration for the fact that students “care so deeply about this issue,” but defended himself against accusations that he was deliberately ignoring student voices.

“I have always welcomed questions and concerns, and I will happily discuss this issue with any concerned students,” he said.

Other protestors were primarily concerned with the “dissonance” between Skidmore’s liberal, “Creative Thought Matters” attitude and the conservative hierarchy that dominates policy-making on campus.

“We’re all from different majors and backgrounds and we want to show that these are not the values we’ve learned at Skidmore,” said Gabby Stern ’13.

Similarly, Alexandra Steinhauer—who has been exceptionally outspoken on this issue—said that she was “upset by the lack of transparency and the inability for students and faculty to make decisions together.”

Overall, the mood in Gannett was mostly subdued and respectful, despite one moment of tension. When the president asked the protestors what they hoped to achieve, Andujar defiantly yelled, “I’m not playing that game with you today, Glotzbach,” causing a minor uproar in the auditorium.

Still, many faculty members in attendance indicated their support, and as the protesters filed out of the auditorium, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Sociology David Karp followed them. When asked how he felt about the event, he said that he was “impressed by the passion and commitment to get their voices heard,” emphasizing the singularly unique nature of the protest.

“I’ve been here for over fifteen years, and I’ve never seen anything like it.”


30 Comments so far ↓

  1. tjh says:

    I’m not saying i support either side but isn’t refusing to listen to someone even if you adamantly disagree with them/their history showing a lack of openness? Even if someone’s a dolt you can humor them and listen to them speak and THEN tear them a new asshole.

    I guess what I’m saying is maybe this passionate protest would be better aimed at this woman in person, instead of at the administration.

  2. Kali says:

    To tjh, the administration had a large role in the decision to offer Carroll an honorary degree and speak at commencement. That means they must take responsibility for the implications behind choosing a woman with her professional record. Yes, she is a successful woman but I do not admire those who gain success through destructive means and I do not want a woman like that representing me or the institution I am graduating from. Both Anglo American and BP have terrible environmental track records and Anglo American is the owner of countless human rights violations. I am willing to have a conversation with her before offering our final demands in order to be as informed as possible. But the reality is, the administration could have avoided all of this if they were transparent with students and the Skidmore community about this potential choice before making a decision.

  3. alumna says:

    Even in the face of this controversy and the administration’s regrettable apathy towards students’ ongoing concerns about Carroll as commencement speaker, one thing is clearer than ever. Current Skidmore students are doing an amazing job of cultivating a culture of awareness and social justice, despite the “everything’s OK” attitude the Board of Trustees has adopted. Gives me hope for Skidmore and the rest of the world.

  4. Since I guess we’re all ready to poke around this particular Pandora’s box, can I take a moment to encourage students to demand The College be a bit more transparent about where it has laid its endowment’s investment portfolio?

  5. Fuck you guys says:

    This is moronic. If you don’t like Cynthia Carroll than you are free to disagree with her. The fact is, there are ppl at this school who aren’t opposed to her speaking, and it’s outrageous that a small group of useless idiots supersedes everyone else.

    Fuck these fucking tree humping jack asses.

    • Cooper says:

      to Fuck you guys —

      I probably shouldn’t even respond to such an anger-infested person as yourself – but you got the best of me.

      Cynthia Carroll is a woman who, for the greater part of 20 years, has sanctioned the destruction of thousands of homes, displaced and destroyed families, and led a company that has obliterated the natural world and is RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF OVER 100 PEOPLE – maybe more. Do you think Skidmore College would benefit from endorsing such a person? Do you think a healthy world would benefit from endorsing such a person?

      Do your research. Form your own opinions with knowledge of the facts. If you still feel the same way after doing that – god help your poor soul.

      • Friendly Professor says:

        I respectfully ask you to check the allegation that CCarroll is “responsible” for the death of more than 100 people. She has actually been praised for significantly improving the human rights record of AngloAmerican in the five years she was there, from 2007-2012.
        While it is true that the mining industry as a whole is a monstrous one–bad for the environment & bad for the human beings who work in the mines–there may be room for doubt that this particular individual is as bad as you say.

        • Common Sense says:

          @ Friendly Professor:

          Thank you for that very valid and lucid remark. It is unfortunate that the rampant liberalism on this campus continues to cloud appropriate judgements and reason.

          We are all aware of the adverse qualities of the mining industry, but does that mean that they can not be mitigated [to a degree]? Does it never occur to people that Carroll has chosen to work with some of the worst companies in the world to try to make things better from an internal approach?

          I, as well as any other reasonable person, would say that BP and Anglo American engage in questionable activities, but if someone like Carroll steps in to make strides towards bettering the company shouldn’t they be praised? Is it so crazy to think that the steps she has made to improve safety were significantly more affective than the fighting her [MU isn’t even fighting the companies!]?

          The world is not black and white, and it is with sincerity that I urge people to question their own beliefs before making volatile accusations- ESPECIALLY of a Skidmore Community Member.

  6. Frank says:

    You would think that the senior class would have something to say about the speaker for their graduation. The seniors worked hard for four years and they deserve a say. I don’t know if a vote is the answer or not.

  7. poor kid says:

    Cynthia Carroll worked for an evil mining company, we get it.

    She also gives thousands upon thousands of dollars to Skidmore, is the reason we’re building a new science building (which we desperately need, trust me), and she probably pays more of my own tuition than I do.

    This woman obviously doesn’t have a piece of coal for a heart, she’s just doing the corporate thing that most kids on this campus pretend not to be a product of (I’m looking at you, “hippies” in BMWs with daddy’s credit card).

    This is how the world works, Skidmore. Get used to it.

    • Z says:

      Just for clarification – Cynthia Carroll does not have a history of donating a ton of money to Skidmore nor are there plans for her to fund the science building. These are all rumors. I have been promised by many people that the decision to bring her was not based on money.

    • Wowfunhappy says:

      So the way the world works is there is no such thing as corporate responsibility and we don’t care if people do bad things as long as it makes money?

  8. Truth says:

    “Carroll’s mettle was tested early on when she was visiting South Africa and learned that another death had occurred in a nearby platinum mine. “That’s enough,” she said, and ordered the mine closed, keenly aware of the financial consequences for the company. “Everyone was telling me that loss of life was an inevitable part of mining,” recalls Carroll. “I knew we could do better.”

    “It took several days to get the 28,000 workers out of the mine and almost two months to implement new safety procedures, but in that one, decisive moment, Carroll made clear her intention to focus on safety. Her steadfast commitment has dramatically decreased the number of deaths in Anglo American’s mines worldwide. Between 2002 and 2006 the company lost 46 people annually, on average. By 2011 the number had fallen to 17. “I’m very proud of our progress,” she says. “Yet, there is more to do.” ”

    • Portman Toenails says:

      Shh – let them have their opportunity to whine. They’ll get it out of their system. And it’s pretty funny.

  9. Jack C. says:

    The gross sense of entitlement displayed by these ‘activists’ reveals a fundamental misunderstanding in the relationship between the institution and the student body. Skidmore facility is charged with identifying avenues of growth to ensure the long term survivability of the institution, not with placating the ephemeral wants of students motivated by whatever happens to be the issue de jour. I have no reservations in stating that if the faculty were to bend to student demands on a regular basis, this institution would find itself in a precarious position in no short order. Further these ‘activists’ exhibit an egregious lack of historical context and what the true character of the school is. If blood money makes you squeamish, you might want to take into the contributions of Texas Instruments (the maker of weapon guidance systems) in relation to the construction of Johnson tower. Or further back in the 1920s when the institution was bankrolled with coal money.

    With this in mind, it would seem that the students in question are at disequilibrium with the institution rather than the reciprocal. The best way for these students to protest, perhaps, would be to forgo their diplomas and the commencement altogether.

    • Lex says:

      I’ve heard time and time again that Skidmore students aren’t politically aware and that student activism was non-existent; they don’t participate in open forums or dialogs enough. The Administration constantly tells us they are open to their thoughts and want an active student body. Yet, when students step up and confront the Administration about a very valid concern, suddenly they’re not participating the political process in the correct way.

      If Skidmore is going to claim to promote cultural competency, political participation and critical thinking, it doesn’t get to suppress student activism. Period.

      I don’t think anybody has foregone the idea of protesting or boycotting Commencement altogether. It seems like United Minds has amped up their efforts as necessary — this protest was organized only after internal discussions with the Administration failed.

      • Jack C. says:

        I would suggest that it is because of students’ lack of political awareness that a small sect of students confused an administrative decision for a political affair. Again, this emanates from a misunderstanding of the function of the administration which does not in every instance correspond with the immediate and short term want’s of some the student body. Further, discounting the validity of seeking appropriate avenues for social change is not a valid argument in this instance. Students, not faculty, terminated dialogue with the damming statement, “I’m not playing that game with you today, Glotzbach.”

        This idea of ‘protesting’ the graduation is laughable as this group can’t even assemble a comprehensive platform of demands, let alone launch a successful demonstration which advances dialogue. I sincerely hope that this tiny group of students realizes what a self-serving and egoistic protest this would truly be, given that it would come at the cost of the graduation experience of the remaining 96% of the student body and their guests’

        • Kalila says:

          Jack, your perception of the opinions of the student body are definitely distorted. I, along with many of my friends, were not present for the protest. However, we still support their actions. Only a few individuals were present because they did not wish to make the protest overly unruly.

          I’m not a fan of Jovany’s statement, but that doesn’t mean the message itself is worthless. Why are you so bitter? Do you sincerely believe that the institution will not survive without this speaker? Have you considered the possibility that improving the school’s image could help with enrollment and donors?

          Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware based on your comments about the nature of Skidmore, but there are many avenues in which the students are encouraged to be active and vocal about enacting change. For God’s sake, Skidmore has an entire department which exists to educate students on how they can identify social issues and enact change in a broad context. Does Social Work ring any bells?

          These are student, not professionals. They’re sincerely trying to put what they’ve been learning at Skidmore to use. Even if it’s a bit of a ragtag movement, I respect them for trying. Skidmore surely doesn’t need any more apathy than it already has.

          • Jack C. says:

            Hi Kalila,

            The portions of your statement which are not purely anecdotal are completely ludicrous. Can you not see the paradoxical nature of supporting this ‘storming of the meeting’ while simultaneously desiring to preserve rule and order? By taking the microphone a hostage situation is created (albeit of an inanimate object). This is necessarily an action which seeks to usurp power and cause disorder. If you can’t see this you should really stay out of such movements. People who blindly get caught in the vogue without considering their actions are a danger to the community.

            The second portion of your argument is also worthless as the message conveyed by Jovany is that of an antagonist or a fool. The mark of a truly intolerant person (or in this case, movement) is someone who is unwilling to engage in dialogue when given the chance. You may try to argue that Jovany and UM had already attempted dialogue and failed. To this, I reply that there was a reporter in the room capable of documenting the incident and channeling through to media outlets. The documentation of the incident would have been more useful than essentially telling the President to fuck off, no? This really paints UM in a sour light, wouldn’t you agree? Do you really want to be part of a movement which is so rash and so willing to discount rational dialogue? Don’t you feel that dialogue is important to the character of Skidmore?

            Bitter – really? What about evil, jaded, cynical, or closed minded? All of these are, perhaps, closer to the truth. Oh, and because my parents didn’t give me hugs.

            Kalila, you’re correct in that the institution would carry on with or without Cynthia. It might be hard to believe, but I could care less if she showed up or not.

            My thoughts are this: I believe that a divide between the student body and the administration is critical to ensure the long-term survivability of the institution. The short term perspective which current students often voice is not always the best thing for the institution in the intermediate and long term. Given this, there will inevitably be some periods of disappointment within the student body at some of the decisions made by the administration. This disappointment is acceptable in that the current student body only reflects a truly tiny fraction of the entire community. For a moment, consider the needs of alumni and those who have yet to come to the institution, yet, which compromise the community. Remove yourself from your limited perspective; can you not see that the broader community has needs, such as the continuance of the institution, surpasses the need of the current student body? My belief is fortified by the puerile and tantrum-like actions of UM and the associated ignorance which this movement attracts.

            Your comment about the social work department is very valid. I would hope that UM and its followers (even its armchair variety) enlist some support from this department before they make farther halfcocked statements or attempt some ridiculous protest.

            I’m going to assume that you haven’t taken a look at the corporate sponsors page in regards to your comment, “improving the school’s image could help with….donors?”. The school is currently supported by JP Morgan Chase, The Marriott, The Hampton Inn, the Comfort Inn, the Hilton, and numerous investors who hold securities which support companies engaged in questionable ethical practices, not to mention the support of companies like TI. These entities don’t seem to mind Skidmore’s image. Have you considered the repercussions of rejecting high a profile alum who has volunteered time and how this might serve to alienate the extended alumni base? What is the point you’re attempting to make here?

            Also, Kalila, I’m sure you’re a very pleasant person, but you (and others who are so ferociously opposed to the idea of a distant administration or a less-than-desirable speaker) need to learn to accept competing points of view without becoming hostile or taking offense personally. What if Ms. Caroll came and decried her actions publicly? Would you be open to this? Farther, it wouldn’t hurt to contribute more than anecdotal evidence to your cause – nobody cares about you or your friends. Or to take a look at the validity of the statements you’re making.

  10. joe byrne says:

    i like how this news website isn’t crawling with ads, compared to the official organ of skidmore college. thank god i have options.

    • Winston Churchill says:

      Joe, I’ve seen your comment on SkidNews, and you seem to have a few misconceptions about how the Internet, journalism, and student clubs operate. First of all, nearly all of that ad space belongs to College Publisher, the company that provides the content management system and back-end support that SkidNews depends on. College Publisher monetizes that ad space, and in exchange provides a multitude of support services to the paper (which are frankly being under-utilized at the moment, but I graduated so I can’t do much about that). You’ll notice similar advertising if you visit other College Publisher sites, such as Ohio State University’s award-winning student paper, The Lantern:

      Beyond that, yes, The Skidmore News does manage to occasionally sell ads. You’ll notice that this is a practice common to EVERY NEWSPAPER IN THE WORLD. As it turns out, all newspapers, even non-profit ones, need money to operate. Further, I believe in your original comment you misconstrued profit with revenue. I can assure you, The Skidmore News is not currently deriving any net profit from its ad revenue, nor has it ever (in fact, at the moment, given the general quality of the paper, I wouldn’t be shocked if there were no revenue whatsoever). Whatever revenue the club does generate is used to either cover additional club expenses or applied to the next year’s budget, subtracting appropriately from the club’s annual request from the Student Activities fund. The practice is the same for every club sanctioned by the SGA.

      In your original comment, you also made some fairly unintelligible claims about IRS regulations. Frankly, most of what you said was gibberish, but I’ll address it anyway. The Skidmore News is not an independently incorporated company. The club’s existence is dependent upon SGA and the college administration. Does this make for a wholly independent news source? No. Does the college use that dependency to influence editorial content? Absolutely not. The college administration supports free expression by student voices, and does not interfere with the content of student publications. Were they to choose to censor any content, however, as a private organization they would likely be well within their rights to do so. Any and all critical articles published in The Skidmore News are a testament to the administration’s commitment to support free speech on campus. I cannot vouch for the currently quality of anything SkidNews publishes, but I can guarantee that you’re out of your mind when you claim that anything about the paper violates American tax law.

      In the meantime, if you find ads so distressing (I certainly find them annoying), I’d recommend installing the Adblock Plus extension in your browser. I’d also recommend visiting the Writing Center repeatedly in what time you have left before graduation, as your comments are incomprehensible and it saddens me to think that my alma mater will be giving you a diploma shortly.

      View Joe’s original comment here (scroll to the bottom):

  11. joe byrne says:

    (y is there a crazy pic of me next to my comment? what in gods name is going on?)

  12. MAT says:

    “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t” So I say committ and do what you are passionate about!

  13. CGleas says:

    Regardless of what Cynthia has done to earn a role as a speaker or not the senior class should have the right to axe someone they feel so strongly about. I don’t see anyone trying to really defend her with logical counter-arguments anyways so it’s sensible to replace her

  14. HUMANities or Business? says:

    The issue of Ms Carroll’s implicite relationship with a deplorable, and rapacious industry, while important, misses the greatest issue of all. Since my first year attending Skidmore the intellectual climate on campus has tended towards a philosophical, scholastic notion of individual rights and liberties. Most often this philosophy is born in the school’s long tradition of fostering the humanities and the implied values these subjects endorse. These values being a respect for knowledge itself, and the manner in which such knowledge can transform your life, and the way you perceive others.

    By choosing to honor a graduate of the business department, despite the impressive body of evidence condemning her company, Skidmore is choosing to subvert the decades of dedication to a nuanced, Humanities focused education. Instead the college has chosen to hold up a new vision of Skidmore-ness. A vision that alienates the great body of humanities students, in hopes of courting their new favorite department: business. In part this controversy speaks to the greater disconnect between the humanities and business ‘sciences.’ The mission of these two factions could not be more separate, and yet the administration has chosen to exacerbate this divide.

    The choice to nominate Ms. Carroll is founded in a fundamental disconnect between the values the college fosters, and the values the college is choosing to laud. In choosing Ms. Carroll, a morally dubious character at best, the school is implying that an un-examined, and un-nuanced philosophy about the world will lead to “success.” The “success” the school is lauding with Ms. Carroll is not fundamental to our mission, and directly opposes the philosophy of the institution itself. An institution that has for years projected a definition of success beyond the material now chooses to honor, above all others, a woman who has elevated her personal status on the backs of those less fortunate than herself. A woman who has chosen to define success in a purely material sense. A woman who has neglected the great breadth of knowledge so valued in skidmore, and replaced this knowledge with a rapacious greed and a narrow definition of power. A woman who, while notable for her intent to reform, is implicite in the extractive mission of the minerals industry and all the evil it is endowed with. In this way Ms. Carroll is an anti-philanthropist, and in a way anti-Skidmore.

    • I agree says:

      Thank you, HUMANities or Business? for your comment. I agree that the general atmosphere of the business department goes against the intellectual focus of a liberal arts college such as Skidmore. Unfortunately, I don’t know if anything can be done about it, if this is the track that the administration has chosen to take the school. To be fair, the choice of the other chosen commencement speaker, journalist David Brooks, does represent the intellectual humanities background (even if I don’t agree with many of his opinions).

  15. Woodbro Chillson says:

    Y’all need to chill.

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