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College of Communication Arts and Sciences holds forum following offensive Sona survey

October 30, 2019
The Communication Arts and Sciences Building on March 25, 2019.
The Communication Arts and Sciences Building on March 25, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

The College of Communication Arts and Sciences hosted a forum Tuesday night following an offensive Sona survey sent out by a member of the college's faculty.

The forum allowed students to directly address the faculty about the survey and the harm it caused.

"I didn't see the full survey, but I did see a few screenshots of what happened, and I was absolutely astonished ... and embarrassed by what was happening," special education sophomore Marlise Gilliam said.

Gilliam said the situation was frustrating to her, especially when hearing that other students' experiences aligned with her own.

"They feel like they don't even belong here, and that’s scary because, coming on the campus, you should feel welcomed and that you belong here," she said.

Gilliam said she was also in attendance at a forum the Black Student Alliance, or BSA, and Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, held just one week prior. There, students were also able to directly address faculty and administrators.

"I always think that the exchange of ideas is needed and it's great and it helps everybody understand things better," Assistant Dean in the College for Undergraduate Education Ann Hoffman said.

She also said she understands why it is important for students to be able to address the faculty directly.

"In these kinds of cases, while I am horrified that it happened, what I learned last week is that there are all kinds of things happening on campus, that have not been in the papers, that I didn’t know about, that kind of that appall me about what’s going on on this campus for students," Hoffman said. "That’s really troubling, and we have to find a way to make it better, so the more we pull people together and get ideas the easier that's gonna become."

After the forum concluded, students had the opportunity to meet in groups with other students and faculty members to further address their concerns. By having faculty members in attendance, the forum hopes that more change will be able to happen directly through their efforts.

"We have leadership that says they're working on the problem, but without the right voices in the room it doesn't get done well, if it all," Department of Advertising and Public Relations Assistant Professor Fashina Alade said. "Having the students here, having the administration being able to hear directly from the students — I don't think I can even do justice to saying how important that is."

Students were granted the ability to speak during the forum with anonymity.

"I’m glad that students and faculty and staff found it important enough to be here because change doesn't happen if we're all not buying into it," Hoffman said.

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