Student-Led Petitions Call for Change

Young Black man at protest

This year has been one of unprecedented adaptation to change as the nation simultaneously faces two pandemics — COVID-19 and racism. During this time, students have come together to call for change in the form of petitions, using the platform to request or demand action. 

On, people everywhere are starting campaigns, mobilizing supporters, and working with decision-makers to drive solutions,” says the platform’s website. The site says that nearly every hour, a petition on its site achieves victory.

In June, Nubian Message, NC State’s student newspaper that serves as the media representative of African-American students, collaborated with a coalition of Black student organizations to create a petition to advance Black undergraduate life at the university. In response, Chancellor Woodson, along with Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Lisa Zapata, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Sheri Schwab and Associate Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Stephanie Helms Pickett met with student leaders on Jun. 22, 2020 to discuss the petition. The university issued a response to the demands, and representatives from OIED are now meeting regularly with the leaders of Black student organizations on campus to ensure that the university is actively listening to their concerns.

Following the university’s decision to move undergraduate courses online for the remainder of the fall semester and close campus residential facilities, another petition emerged, calling for the university to pause classes during mandatory move-out. NC State ended up providing a two-day class break for students on Monday, Aug. 31, and Tuesday, Sep. 1, to allow on-campus students time to prepare to move. To accommodate this break, those classes will be made up on Monday, Nov. 16, and Tuesday, Nov. 17, and the first day of exams will be delayed until Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Several other petitions have circulated, such as a request for substantial change in policing at the university, which outlines demands regarding campus security; and a demand for the university to lobby for international students following ICE modifications to temporarily exempt non-immigrant international students from taking online classes. The university has posted a response to the policing petition.

Petitions provide an opportunity for students to have a voice but are only one of many ways to approach creating change. NC State welcomes working together collaboratively to accomplish change through regular and open communication, and provides many avenues for input from all of its communities so that students have a direct route to voice their concerns and help improve our university.

Campus leaders have been listening to the demands of students and taking their ideas into consideration; NC State’s Student Government, for example, has been meeting virtually this semester and discussing these student concerns. The Faculty and Staff Senate each provide similar opportunities for the faculty and staff communities.

Jenna Nabors (she/her) is a fourth-year student majoring in communication and international studies and a Park Scholar. Share your thoughts about this article on Twitter at @NCStateOIED.