Washington Adventist University President Predicts “Increased Student Activism and Unrest This Fall”
23 July 2020 | In a July 22 message to the Washington Adventist University community, the institution’s president, Weymouth Spence, predicted “increased student activism and unrest this fall.”
Spence said WAU intended “to re-open the campus for face-to-face instruction this fall” but warned the “2020/2021 academic year will be the most unpredictable and high-intensity one we will likely ever experience due to COVID-19, as well as increased activism, enrollment challenges, financial concerns, and the November 2020 election.”
Citing “multiple sources,” the leader said students coming for the new school year “are facing new or worsened mental health challenges, and the financial crisis threatens students’ ability to continue their education and their job prospects upon graduation.”
Historically underserved students will feel challenges more acutely, said Spence.
“It is well documented that during the period of March 15 to April 15, there were nearly 25% fewer Pell-eligible college applicants than last year. Black and Latinx Americans are facing higher rates of COVID-19 related infection and job loss. There was a 19-percentage-point gap in basic needs insecurity between Black and White students during the Spring 2020 semester.”
Speaking to the “murder of George Floyd, the ensuing focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 U.S. presidential election around the corner,” Spence said universities will experience “an influx of controversial speakers, third party-actors encouraging activism, and challenges to free speech” in addition to student activism.
Spence committed to being intentional about giving the WAU community “opportunities to feel heard, respected, engaged, and challenged while avoiding the fallout that comes with mismanaging institutional response to activism.”
Washington Adventist University is Montgomery County’s only four-year private college. Part of the Seventh-day Adventist system of higher education, Washington Adventist University has been educating college students since 1904 on a 19-acre campus in suburban Takoma Park, close to the nation’s capital. Approximately 1,100 students of all faiths attend the university. The 2016 edition of U.S. News & World Report ranked Washington Adventist University among the best regional colleges in the north.