SIU students protest gun violence 

SIU+student%2C+Jazmin+Vazquez%2C+stares+at+chancellor+Lane+as+he+exits+Anthony+Hall+during+the+die-in+protest+held+by+SIU+Student+Safety+Initiative+on+Dec.+1%2C+2021+at+SIU.++

Jared Treece | @bisalo

SIU student, Jazmin Vazquez, stares at chancellor Lane as he exits Anthony Hall during the ‘die-in’ protest held by SIU Student Safety Initiative on Dec. 1, 2021 at SIU.

On December 1, 2021 Southern Illinois University Carbondale students and faculty marched from Faner to Anthony hall, where the chancellor and provost offices are located, to protest the ongoing gun violence in Carbondale.  The protest was organized by the Student Safety Initiative. 

Students and faculty chanted while marching “We are not afraid of finals. We are afraid of guns” and “Silence is Violence.” 

Students and faculty also hosted a die-in where people laid on the ground to represent the SIU students and faculty that have died this semester on the lawn of Anthony Hall

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Audrey Holmes, a graduate student in the English department and a member of the Student Safety Initiative said the gun violence that has occurred this semester has taken an emotional toll on  faculty members and students.

“I also know certain graduate assistants who taught students who have been shot or killed and they weren’t prepared for that instance. When that happened, they were given no support. Holmes said. “I just thought the radio silence from the administration and then their eventual response was too little too late.”

According to Holmes the administration and its lack of support to the students and faculty had serious effects on both the students and faculty mental health.

Holmes said student safety should be the top priority of the university.

“I just think at the end of the day, student safety should be prioritized above all else, no matter what the cost is. Saving even one student’s life is more important than anything that university should be focusing on. Students should not be getting shot or dying,” Holmes said.

Holmes said the university is focusing more on increasing enrollment than improving campus safety.

Before the protest began from Faner to Anthony Hall Salaam Odeh, another English graduate student said that due to a backlog in Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at SIU students are not able to get the help they need.

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“This is a very big school with 10,000 students at least and that’s not including graduate students, not including faculty members that might also include the counseling services right,” Odeh said.

Odeh said the university needs to prioritize hiring more counselors to address the needs of students on campus.

Jazmin Vazquez, one of the protest organizers and a second year student read out student demands. 

Vazquez read the administration should reallocate funds to the counseling services, provide free counseling, provide buses that run all night for students who decide to go off campus, and move all classes online if there is a threat on campus.

Kevin Serrano, an English TA said the school just offering students one mental health day did no good and did not allow students enough time to rest and improve their mental health.

“We were offered just a day off of school, which felt very much like it was trying to placate us into the university’s lack of response towards everything that’s been happening,” Serrano said. “The university knows that we’re very traumatized as a community and is doing nothing to actually help us through our trauma.” 

Serrano said the counseling center is underfunded and one mental health day  is not enough to help students work through the trauma they experienced this past semester.

According to Serrano, the school not offering online classes as an option for students is the university showing how much they do not value student safety and only care about getting enrollment up by keeping students in in-person classes.

During the die-in multiple spoke about how the gun violence on campus is affecting them.

Keshaun Altman, a student at SIU said that in order for him to be able to get a counseling session he has to be considered high risk.

Altman is not the only student who has been affected by the lack of emotional support from the school. Madison Schicago a fifth year student, said the administration lack of ability to recognize that students need help this semester is neglectful. 

Halfway through the die-in Chancellor Lane came out to give his take on the students protesting.

“Unfortunately, as you know, guns are part of our society. Unfortunately people use guns in a way that they’re not supposed to use guns. My hope in a perfect world would be that no one would ever be shot. No one would ever be harmed or threatened by a gun but that’s not reality,” Lane said.

Lane said he understands the students’ frustration and said he is glad that students are protesting issues such as these.

“The administration must listen to the needs of the students. The administration must own and apologize for mistakes,” Vazquez said.

Staff reporter Janiyah Gaston can be reached at [email protected] or on Instagram at @janiyah_reports. To stay up to date with all your Southern Illinois news follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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