Arkansas State University has revived the Pack Pact, an event that serves as an open discussion about subjects that may be difficult to talk about.
“Pack Pact is an honor code that was adopted several years ago,” said Dr. Bill Smith, chief communications officer. “It was in response to some student concerns, about particularly sexual assault awareness.”
The Pack Pact was originally part of the first-year convocation, where first year students were taught how to be respectful to their peers. The Pack Pact hasn’t been held for the last three years due to COVID-19.
A-State’s chancellor, Dr. Todd Shields, brought the Pack Pact back to address inappropriate student conduct.
“There are student interactions that are not appropriate, student comments that are occasionally borderline racist. There are issues that become of great concern to segments of our campus community and larger community. The chancellor saw this as an opportunity to bring back that set of guidelines and broaden them,” Smith said.
This is not the last Pack Pact of the semester. The first one was held in Centennial Hall on Nov.10. Over 350 people attended.
The next event is scheduled for Nov. 29. The session will begin at 9 a.m. and address employee concerns. At 12 p.m., the session will be opened up to students.
While it hasn’t been scheduled yet, there will also be a Pack Pact meeting on Zoom for online students and faculty.
“Our goal from these events will be to listen and create actionable items that we can announce at the start of the spring 2023 semester in a follow-up event on Jan. 12,” Shields said in a campus-wide email. “We will have more details about that event after we complete these first campus conversations.”
Before the event started, students and faculty could submit a question or concern anonymously through an email Shields sent out across campus.
Thursday’s session featured a panel consisting of Shields; Perdeta Bush, director of Title IX and Institutional Equity; Dr. Martha Spack, vice chancellor of student affairs and dean of students; Dr. Lonnie Williams, vice chancellor for diversity, inclusions and community engagement; Carlee Bird, president of the Student Government Association and Dylan Arnette, a point guard for the men’s basketball team.
The very first question asked was how A-State could address racism. Williams and Bush encouraged students to reach out to their offices and report incidents of racism.
“One of the best ways to fight it is to keep people coming forward rather than coming out to report this. They are being investigated,” Williams said.
The panelists were also questioned about what could be done about tenured professors who are racist.
“Tenure does not protect racist comments or hate speech. Tenure and academic freedom absolutely protect our right as faculty members to research and teach things we want to,” Shields said. “If faculty are saying racist things, make sure that those are recorded.”
In addition, the panelists were also asked about lingering Native American references across campus, such as street names and the display containing images of the old mascot.
Williams said A-State is looking to have a full conversation about the street names and displays in the future.
Other topics discussed at the panel included resources and support for members of the LGBTQ+ community, disabled people and women.
One question was directed at Shields and asked him why he was focusing on insensitive comments made on social media. It asked why he wasn’t focusing on “rising tuition costs or poor teaching from professors” and said it was his job to prepare students for the workforce.
“In terms of getting you ready for the workforce, this is absolutely what you need. (Companies) need to hear that ‘I can work with lots of people that are totally different from me. I don’t not necessarily agree with them, but I value them as human beings,” Shields said.
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