University of New Hampshire students seek meeting to air concerns over student safety

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

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Protest at UNH. Courtesy Photo

Students at the University of New Hampshire are discouraged at President James Dean’s refusal to meet with the newly formed Sexual Violence Action Committee (SVAC). The group has been working with Senior Vice Provost for Student Life Kenneth Holmes, Chief Diversity Officer Nadine Petty, and multiple other administrators to change a culture on campus which promotes sexual violence and institute preventative measures against sexual assault. President Dean took offense to how students conducted themselves at a protest outside his home on the UNH campus, prior to the formation of SVAC, and has since refused to meet with the group. 

In an email to SVAC, Nadine Petty who has thus far been speaking on behalf of Dean, summarized a phone conversation with SVAC member Kai Parlett, saying: “President Dean specifically is not happy about the disrespect shown towards him during Monday’s protest a couple of weeks ago… He requests an apology… and will not meet with SVAC until an apology is provided. He is adamant about this and his position is clear.” 

Students of SVAC met to discuss whether an apology was warranted, and the general consensus was that no apology would be provided. SVAC did, however, provide Holmes and Petty with a written response. 

SVAC does not feel that it is appropriate of the administration to attempt to censor student speech and we hope President Dean can accept our comments,” the students wrote. “We look forward to future meetings with the administration working to prioritize student safety. We hope President Dean will be present at future meetings as we believe he is an integral figure in making change on campus.” 

Students hope to meet with President Dean, and are concerned that he appears to be placing personal insult above the wellbeing of campus residents. 

“It concerns me that he seems to be more focused on his own personal offense from a small group of students than the safety of all students, and makes me question his priorities as president,” said freshman Elizabeth Miller. 

Student Isabella Luca noted: “A President at UNH shouldn’t make doing their job contingent on how happy and agreeable the student body is. President Dean should be meeting and communicating with students as it is the exact position he signed up for. Delaying this and asking for an apology from an unrelated group of students is unacceptable and shows us that finding solutions isn’t his top priority.” 

Luca and other SVAC members call on President Dean to meet with them in the next scheduled student-administration meeting. 

“President Dean,” Luca said, “If you want to show us that you value our safety and creating solutions collaboratively, I urge you to show up and speak with us.”

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? Send your thoughtful prose for consideration to, subject line, The Soapbox.

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UNH Sexual Violence Action Committee