To all of Wittenberg:
The reason for this message is to provide a paraphrase of what I sent to the faculty, staff and administrators. I am not sharing the full letter because it was specifically addressed to those individuals, not to students. However, I have been made aware that it was leaked from someone in the audience to whom it addressed, so I want to make clarifications to those students that have been selected to read said letter. Due to the leak, I also want it to be known that a student who signed the request to faculty, staff and administrators, not my letter, was confronted and intimidated by two Shifter students two nights ago.
Shifters as an “organization”, not the individuals in the “organization”, have created an unsafe learning and living environment that has disturbed many students. These students do not feel included, safe and like they cannot reach out to their faculty for help because they are unaware of who in positions of power (faculty, staff and administrators) are or are not Shifters. That being said, I asked the faculty: Why? Why is it important for you to be a part of Shifters? How does it better your experience and the experience of those students that identify as Shifters? How does it benefit students who are not Shifters? How do you make sure you are not bias in the classroom?
I did address the Shifter faculty, staff and administrators directly in my letter mentioning how I applaud them for assisting the Shifter students in this difficult time, as they helped write the letter that was littered across campus. However, I also mentioned how the secrecy has created a systemic problem of not knowing who to go to in times of peril.
I do want to clarify that the students that signed the letter only endorsed the request made to the faculty, “The following students would like an answer to: What institutional, student, professional, and personal value is there in faculty, staff and administrators belonging to the Shifters?” Everything else in the letter was written from my perspective from what I have heard from many students over the years.
At the end of my letter, though, I shared a quote from Brené Brown to Shifter faculty, staff and administrators – “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” I implored them to be courageous and let themselves be seen. If we, as students, do not know who to talk to, then how can we succeed while walking on eggshells.
To all the students that read this, I encourage you, too, to let yourself be seen and courageous. We are the students of this University, and we get to decide our futures here. The faculty, staff and administrators have to listen to our calls to action. We are the deciding factors of where this University goes.
-Justin Unternaher, ‘19