Samantha Ewing ’23 (She/Her), Perspectives Columnist
As Davidson students, we all know well by now what happened. At the beginning of March, members of PPGA wrote an article detailing how they requested information on how to add dining dollar functionality to Wellness Wendy—this idea in practice would have increased the accessibility of sexual wellness products for Davidson students. However, they were turned down with the argument that Dining Dollars should be used exclusively for food items. When they responded that non-food items were available to be purchased with Dining Dollars in other parts of campus, Auxiliary Services threatened to exclude non-food items from Dining Dollar usage. Less than a month later, an announcement was made through the Davidson College Dining Services Instagram that they had carried out the threat.
The writers from PPGA already did a thorough job of discussing why the school’s attitude towards the accessibility of sexual wellness products was upsetting in their earlier article. In addition to their insight, there are other aspects of the decision that I found troubling, one of them being the timing and manner in which the dining dollars announcement was made. First, the decision was made public at the end of March—about ten weeks into a sixteen-week semester. If the school is going to make a decision that so drastically affects how students are able to pay for resources on campus, it should at the very least allow for ample time before students select their meal plans. With the restriction going into effect mid-semester, students were stuck with meal plans they had chosen under a different set of expectations for how their money would be able to be used.
While most major decisions from the school are announced through emails to the entire student body, one peculiar aspect of this decision is that it was announced through a social media page. It’s worth thinking critically about why this was the chosen form of communication for such a critical announcement. The dissemination of information through a Davidson-affiliated social media page created a nuanced effect that left students wondering where the decision came from. In fact, were it not for PPGA’s earlier Perspectives article, we would have no idea who was responsible for the decision at all; I, along with many other students, was left confused about who to discuss my concerns about the decision with. I think this method of communication begs the question if the decision was intended to fly below the radar to minimize backlash from the student body. There is also no way to monitor or ensure how many Davidson students follow the school’s social media pages—why would the school not have chosen a more universal method to communicate a decision that would impact the majority of Davidson students? Currently, the Instagram announcement is deleted or archived from the page, leaving no documentation of the mid-semester decision.
This Dining Dollars decision was far from the first announcement impacting student life to be made with little to no input from the students. With the exception of the few students who were corresponding with Auxiliary Services, most of us had no idea such a change was being considered at all. Students should have, at the very least, been informed that restricting Dining Dollar access was being discussed. Between the inconsistent COVID policy announcements throughout the pandemic and the sudden delayed arrival to campus earlier this semester, the school has displayed a dangerous pattern of silencing student voices in decisions that impact us the most. As I wrote in my article about our delayed return earlier this semester, the college shouldn’t have the universal, unpredictable prerogative to change major aspects of students’ lives at a moment’s notice.
Lastly, the school’s approach in responding to PPGA’s request has set an ominous precedent. What message does it send to students trying to communicate their needs and priorities when they are met with threats? In general, the school should meet student concerns with more kindness and understanding—regardless of whether or not Auxiliary Services ultimately saw fit to instill dining dollar functionality to the machine, the correspondence should never have resulted in a punishment for students voicing their needs. For a school that prides itself on its liberal arts education that challenges students to think critically, I am unsettled by the mixed signals the college sends when it tries so overtly to stifle student voices.
I have been very glad to see that there have been petitions to reverse the decision—I know
from my personal involvement that SGA is working to discuss solutions with the administration and that there are many other groups of students reaching out to advocate for their needs. It gives me hope that despite the administration’s consistent lack of effort to consider student needs, that Davidson students continue to make their voices heard.
According to an article about the decision published by the Davidsonian Editorial staff, it seems that the Center for Student Health and Well-being is working with PPGA to make sexual wellness resources more accessible to students. I believe this could be a step in the right direction, however, it does not negate the damage caused by the way PPGA’s request was handled. Davidson loves to advertise that its students are treated as members of the community rather than numbers. I’m frustrated and tired of seeing the student body treated with so little consideration and as though our voices don’t matter. Going forward, I hope the school re-evaluates and gives students the space to be informed and have a voice in decisions that impact our day-to-day lives with direct communication and thoughtful responses to our concerns.
Samantha Ewing (she/her) is an English major and communications studies minor from Atlanta, GA. Samantha can be reached for comment at email@example.com.