Council Takes on Forward Looking Proposals

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The first Sewanee Community Council meeting presided over by new Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety saw the council make a commitment to two forward looking proposals raised by council members. At the June 22 meeting, council representative Theresa Shackelford recommended the council “reimagine” the use of the Community Council fund and craft new guidelines for the mission and management of the $10,000 annual sum allocated to the council for grants. Rising to the challenge of the times, representative Paul Schutz asked the council to issue a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Beginning in 2015, a small fee assessed leaseholders provided the council with $10,000 annually to fund community enhancement grants. “Initially the program was enthusiastically received,” Shackelford said, but more recently, “requests have gone down in number and impact.” Twice the amount in the fund rose to $20,000 before it was dispersed, Shackelford pointed out. She applauded the council’s decision in April to allocate $15,000 for COVID-19 related emergencies.

“The community is at the mercy of the University and Go-Fund-Me type things if they need money, because Sewanee is not incorporated,” Shackelford said. She proposed a portion of the annual award could be saved and invested, “socked away for a rainy day.” Citing possible uses, she mentioned iPads for area children lacking technological resources and the Sewanee Community Center.

The council voted to form a committee to investigate new uses and a new direction for the Community Council Funding Project monies.

In requesting the council issue a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Schutz cited the recent march and testimonies of “awkwardness and discomfort” by students, faculty, and staff of color. “Anything we can do to make people feel welcome here is well worth doing,” Schutz said. Schutz provided the council with a proposed statement.

“I confirm every bullet point,” said council representative Cindy Potter, “but I’m worried about our Sewanee police who have been exceptional.” Council member Mary Priestley agreed, “I don’t want to draw a line between the council and the Sewanee police.”

The council will collaborate on drafting a solidarity proposal and vote on approval remotely.

Addressing a more mundane circumstance, Parks Committee chair Stephen Burnett revisited the need for restroom facilities in the vicinity of Elliot Park. Burnett previously proposed facilities at the soon-to-open Wellness Center be made available. He was told “the Wellness Center was not suitable…for little children.”

Provost Nancy Berner explained, “From the outset the Wellness Center was targeted for college students.” The building will house the Outing Program, counselors, a workout room and other student-oriented initiatives. Berner suggested if the Center was not being fully utilized, it was possible others would have access.

“The ability to relieve yourself is a public health issue. It’s a dignity issue,” Brigety said. He proposed porta-potties as a temporary solution when Elliot Park reopened and evaluating the level of need prerequisite to a more permanent solution.

Looking back, Shackelford suggested the council draft a resolution thanking former Vice Chancellor John McCardell who presided over the council for the past 10 years. “McCardell made changes for the better,” Shackelford stressed. “I loved that you could disagree with him and he didn’t take it personally.” A committee will form to draft a resolution for the council to review.

Six council seats will come open for election in November. Shackelford will serve as election officer coordinating media announcements about open seats and how to become a candidate. Shackelford, an at large representative, will not seek reelection.

The council welcomed new council member Sarah Hess, a rising middler at the School of Theology.

The council meets next on Sept. 14.

Editor’s Note: Please see page 7 of this issue for the Sewanee Community Council Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement, which was recently approved.

Sewanee Community Council Statement of Solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement June 2020

As the nation looks on with shock and horror at the continued extrajudicial killings of unarmed black men and women in the United States, we, the members of the Sewanee Community Council, wish to affirm our support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and to express our dedication to ending systemic racism by whatever means we have at our disposal.

We hereby affirm the following:

We reject racism and xenophobia in all their forms;

We acknowledge and will continue to educate ourselves about the slaveholding roots of the Sewanee community and of the University of the South, and we pledge to recognize, acknowledge, and work to reconcile this history in all we do;

We pledge to make the Sewanee community a welcoming place for people of all nations, all races, and all religions;

We affirm that Black Lives Matter. We recognize that all lives are precious, but that systemic injustice, oppression, exclusion, and violence against the black community are insufferable and must stop, and that we must actively do our part to make them stop;

We pledge to listen to black and brown community members, to recognize their experience, and to act always with humility and empathy with regard to their needs and concerns.

Sewanee is a special place for all who live here, work here, and study here. Our community is not free from the scourge of systemic racism, nor are we guiltless in its continuance. We pledge to rise above the complacency of mere good intentions and to take action whenever we can to ensure justice and peace for all who call Sewanee home, and for people across this nation and around the world.