Over the weekend, Muhlenberg publicly affirmed the rights of prospective students to peacefully protest, particularly in light of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
“We support @Muhlenberg students of today and tomorrow for standing up and peacefully speaking out against violence. You’re welcome here and continue to be,” read the tweet, initially posted by Rob Springall, Vice President for Enrollment Management and later reposted by the College’s official account.
Over 200 colleges and universities have similarly indicated that they would not change a prospective student’s admissions decision if the student faces disciplinary actions for peaceful protesting; these statements of support come as part of the larger Never Again MSD movement, an organization founded by survivors of the shooting.
“The combined core of our message was support for the students and an affirmation that peaceful displays of personal conviction are ok,” said Springall. “If a high school principal chooses to suspend a student for participating in a rally, that may be his or her right. The Admissions Committee also has a right and a responsibility to evaluate each episode within context and with sensitivity. An act that a school may call disobedience, but is otherwise peaceful and thoughtful, would not make us revisit an offer of admission.”
An act that a school may call disobedience, but is otherwise peaceful and thoughtful, would not make us revisit an offer of admission.
On Sunday, Muhlenberg sent a message to prospective students expanding on Springall’s tweet and related sentiments. As of Monday morning, it had been opened by nearly 2,400 applicants.
“Should current events and your own ethical and civic values move you to find ways to improve our collective future — even if labeled civil disobedience — our community will support you, both now and should you join us this fall,” reads the email.
But in crafting some of the College’s messaging on the topic, Springall noted that the tragedy in Parkland is far from the only social justice cause that prospective students may wish to express their feelings about — ultimately, that language sets Muhlenberg apart from many of the other institutions.
“The message supporting peaceful activism also extends, now and in the future, to other students speaking for causes in which they believe,” said Springall.
The student handbook does not have a specific policy outlining discipline for current students who wish to protest, and who may miss class in doing so. Dr. Kathy Harring, Provost, says that class attendance policies are ultimately determined by each faculty member, in accordance with the College’s attendance policy:
“Students are expected to attend classes regularly and are responsible for governing themselves in this matter … While the College recognizes the value of extracurricular experience, the academic program has priority at Muhlenberg. Instructors should inform students in the first week of class of their policy regarding the relationship between attendance, interaction in the classroom, and evaluation in the course,” reads the policy.
Regardless, Springall sought to be inclusive for all students of Muhlenberg — prospective and current.
“My intention with the language of our tweet on Saturday was to be supportive and in the moment,” said Springall. “Coming off last Wednesday’s gathering on College Green, I wanted to acknowledge both our current and future students and to send both groups an appreciation for their sentiments.”