Against a celebratory backdrop of student and administration collaboration, approximately 20 student demonstrators gathered at the South Lawn Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Wednesday morning to protest former resident assistant Danny Zydel’s firing and broader issues permeating the university.
“We want transparency,” said freshman protester Sam Britt.
The demonstrators were largely comprised of Zydel’s former freshmen residents from Patton Hall. Before the event began, they assembled in Patton’s lobby, made signs and rallied before their demonstration started, which took place behind the general crowd.
They brandished signs featuring statements such as “Free Danny” and “We Wanted a Voice, You Fired Our RA”.
A large crowd of other students, faculty and members of administration not associated with the demonstration filled the McWhorter Hall plaza to commemorate the official opening of the new lawn and the campus fountain.
Zydel, a junior, was fired in November from his position after he secretly recorded a private conversation he conducted with President Bob Fisher. Zydel’s dismissal is scheduled to take effect at the conclusion of this semester.
Zydel stood with the protesters and held a sign reading “We Wanted a Voice You Gave Us a Fountain?!”
“I’m upset that I lost my job and I think that there are a lot of questions that just haven’t been answered by the administration,” Zydel said.
The protesters remained quiet and respectful during the 20-minute ceremony. They wielded their signs throughout the proceedings, which included a prayer; words from Fisher; a speech given by Student Government Association President Jeanette Morelan and the ribbon cutting.
Morelan, following the ceremony, noted the significance of the event, especially in the context of what she called “a tough semester all around.”
“It definitely was a celebration of Belmont’s growth,” she said. “But I think we have a lot more work to do, which is present based on everything that is happening today.”
After the ceremony, Fisher shook hands with the protesters and thanked them for being there.
“I certainly respect their right to be here and appreciate the way they conducted themselves,” Fisher said.
The protesters dispersed as students took to the lawn and celebrated the new and improved green space.
“I love the sound of water and the way it draws people. I can’t wait for some beautiful days for when the place is surrounded by students,” Fisher said.
This article was written by Kirk Bado, Will Hadden and Grayson Hester.
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