A photo essay on #OccupyDCGA

SHANTI BASU, Photo Editor — The Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA) is an annual body of 40 students “elected by their peers to represent the student voice in the life of the college.” Founded in 1947, the association was intended as an improvement upon the previous system of student government.

As it stands today, the DCGA may be joined by any Denison student enrolled in one or more credit hours. To become a senator, one must either be elected each year by their class or be appointed to represent an organization to which they belong. Within DCGA, various committees form largely through personal preference, though some roles require internal election as dictated by the group’s constitution. All senators must sit on at least one committee.

The group meets as a whole weekly to deliberate on issues directly pertaining to campus culture. In recent years, the DCGA has “…designed and implemented Denison’s Code of Academic Integrity, which upholds a culture of intellectual honesty, and the Party Registration System, which advocates a safe and respectful social environment.”

While the group does not report directly to anyone specific leading the university, members of the DCGA often work with the administration to take on smaller projects aimed at improving “…academic and operational concerns,” and offers recommendations regarding student policy. When the DCGA passes a resolution, it then goes to the relevant administrative division or office to which it pertains. Perhaps most importantly, however, members of DCGA also “…meticulously allocate an annual budget of roughly $900,000 among more than 170 student organizations” (denison.edu).

On April 16th, the 2019 DCGA senators met for what was thought to be the last time, to vote on the student budget for the 2019-20 school year. At this meeting, during a period of constructive dialogue, several allegations were aired regarding the ethics and biases of members of the DCGA finance committee. Due to the upsetting nature of these claims, no agenda items were dealt with following the ‘constructive dialogue’ portion of the meeting when the allegations against members of the finance were made. The budget remained undecided.

A few days later on Thursday, April 25, during a presidential debate between the three students hoping to hold the position during the upcoming year, several remarks made by candidate Atticus Daniels ‘20 were interpreted at several points as victim blaming.

More information can be found linked at the end of the photo essay from previous articles on the issue from The Denisonian and The Bullsheet.

The following photos recount the chain of events during and before the four and a half hour DCGA meeting on April 30, 2019:

On Tuesday, April 30th, a DCGA meeting originally intended to be the first convergence of the new Senate, was revised to include the previous delegation’s budget, in order to approve the funds needed to support student activity in the coming year. Hearing of this, students who were feeling frustrated and disenfranchised began to organize with hopes of using this event to drive change. In a series of informal meetings at 12pm, 4pm, and 5pm the day of the meeting, student and DCGA senator Amirah Loury ‘19 presented a list of developing demands to anyone who chose to listen.
Loosely affiliated under the term #OccupyDCGA, the group had a few central concerns that were posted in the Denison University Student Body Facebook Group by Amirah Loury ‘19: “Our posters were ripped down for months and most of you in this Facebook group sat by and watched. I expect the same passion and outspoken regard in defending us against the racist verbal abuse we have faced last week by DCGA senators. Please read these demands and come Tuesday as we #OccupyDCGA until our demands are met.”
Shortly after 6:15 on April 30, stopping in the dining hall next door on their way, students began to gather in Denison University’s Curtis Provost Dining Room. Instead of the auditorium style of the Burton Morgan Lecture Hall where the Senators usually would meet, the chairs were arranged around round tables.
Loury ‘19 led the rallying cry and remained a driving force throughout the entirety of the conversation, balancing honesty, humor, and frustration with eloquence in the face of both collective and personal opposition.
Initially, Bridget Koerwitz ‘21 took the role of acting Speaker of the Senate, a position held during typical meetings in the past year by Mike Angelo ‘19. Angelo was unable to attend on April 30th.
Following several passionate statements by Denison students and senators alike, president-elect Atticus Daniels ‘20 suddenly entered the room. Striding to center stage, Daniels spoke to the crowd for approximately 30 minutes regarding his perspective on recent events that were associated with him. Daniels addressed two women in the crowd in particular by calling them out for perceived wrongdoings by name.
Many of the statements made by Daniels related to the sensitive subject matter, referencing sexual assault, aggression, and racial identity. His arrival and abrupt departure shortly after his 30-minute speech raised already heightened emotions throughout the room as students started to react to his comments.
As Daniels continued to speak, Vice President-elect Omari Garrett ‘21 waited determinedly for his turn to speak. Their statement that followed spurred many additional students to come forward.
Daniels ‘20 left the DCGA meeting and students in the room with three options: to swear him in as President as planned or not, to elect incumbent president Owen Crum ‘20 as he had been the second place candidate, or open the polls once again for another run-off vote. Students spoke in occasional approval as well as passionate, decisive indignation. The tide began to change as individuals such as Vaval Victor ‘20 advocated for “…peace and unity amongst the People of Color (POC) community”, and additional perspectives continued.
Ian Dooley ‘19 was one of the few students who spoke openly in support of Daniels ‘20, drawing comparisons between the animosity he observed on campus toward his friend to the dynamics found leading up to Adolf Hitler’s reign in Nazi-era Germany. He compared Hitler’s hate toward Jewish people to the hate that people on campus felt toward Daniels, noting this example was drawn from his own German heritage.
Incumbent President and recent candidate Owen Crum ‘20 also spoke with purpose, urging his peers and fellow senators to consider what can happen moving forward in this conversation.
Recognizing a need for intention and careful consideration of content that could be triggering as talks continued, trained survivor advocate and mediator, former president of Denison Coalition for Sexual Respect and SHARE, and most recent Presidential medalist Elena Meth ‘19 took the lead.
Several brief intermissions were called throughout the night, due to concerns about the privacy and mental state of sexual abuse survivors wishing to stay anonymous amidst the room from those acting as moderation. During this time, conversations flourished between strangers, friends and peers.
Dean of Students Bill Fox was one of the few members of administrative staff in the room, who wavered between offering relevant information when questioned, listening as students spoke, and hoping to dissuade tension when conversations took a crucial turn.
At several points throughout the night, students in the room shared and supported each other through intimate accounts, often traumatic, of the experiences driving their personal positions.
The culmination of four and a half hours of discourse, demands, and defense arrived in a unanimous vote. Those still in the room, as allowed through a motion to suspend constitutional procedure passed earlier in the night, voted to send the question of Atticus Daniels’ impeachment to the student body. The night of dialogue, compromise and defiance returned to a digital poll.

Photos and text by Shanti Basu.

The Bullsheet: Email exchange between Atticus Daniels ‘20 and Sexual Harassment & Assault Resources & Education (SHARE) President Elena Meth ‘19 on Friday 4/26 talked about a different issue regarding sexual respect. The following issues including 4/29 and 4/30 to 5/3 are regarding the DCGA Budget Appeals and #OccupyDenison.

Previous The Denisonian articles:  

Overcomplicated DCGA budgeting process causes campus controversy by Nina Cosdon ‘21 and Mary Clare Edwards ‘21

DCGA elections cause debate, controversy and accusations by Liz Anastasiadis ‘21 and Joey Semel ‘21

#OccupyDCGA starts a conversation with administrators about demands by Liz Anastasiadis ‘21

Pause and reflect by Tima Kaba ‘19

Related issues:

A brief history of pinning and how this ceremony intersected celebrating a drug kingpin by Alina Panek ‘20

Underground organization under question after Pittsburgh incident by Liz Anastasiadis ‘21