Students gather to discuss accessibility and inclusion on campus

Students for a Democratic Society hosted the conversation in Coffman Union Wednesday encouraging students to talk about campus climate.

Students gather in Coffman Union Wednesday for a discussion on campus climate.

Image by MN Daily

Students gather in Coffman Union Wednesday for a discussion on campus climate.

by David Clarey and Kevin Beckman

About 50 students congregated in Coffman Union Wednesday to air frustrations and grievances about the University of Minnesota’s campus climate.

The event, hosted by Students for a Democratic Society, aimed to facilitate conversation on issues ranging from rising tuition costs and inaccessibility, inclusivity and the repression of student voices.

“[We] generally just wanted to give students a platform to talk about the issues they find on campus,” said SDS officer, Martin Branyon.

Speakers included representatives of the Feminist Student Activist Collective, Student Workers for $15, Whose Diversity?, and Differences Organized.

“The struggle that we’re trying to encourage students to participate in is to make this a truly public university,” said 5th year graduate student and SDS organizer Mathew Boynton.

SDS passed out t-shirts and hung banners from Coffman’s walls that read “Fire Kaler.”

The event follows a heated, months-long discussion of free expression on campus, and comes a week after the defacement of the Muslim Student Association’s Washington Avenue Bridge panel with the word “ISIS,” and the distribution of posters on campus alleging that Students for Justice in Palestine is linked to Hamas.

“It all adds up to a really uncomfortable place for marginalized students,” said Sabrina Kowal, a first-semester philosophy junior and member of SDS and FSAC. “This place needs to be accessible and safe for everyone.”

Computer science junior Nathan Klish pointed to College Republican’s “Build the Wall” bridge panel as a sign of an unwelcoming campus atmosphere. He said the administration failed to address the issue properly.

“How can it be a welcoming space it administration is willing to allow hate speech on campus?” he said.

History freshman Joselin Navarro said the recent campus climate issues have made her feel unwanted on campus.

“I came to this school because I thought I would feel included and feel welcome,” she said. “But I feel like the complete opposite.”

Boynton said talks like Wednesday’s can help educate students and foster a more open dialogue.

“It was an opportunity for students to speak to each other, to educate each other and to discuss ways that they can organize to change this university for the better,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of casting a ballot … it’s really a long-term protracted struggle to make this University better.”