Calling itself “the silent majority at the college,” an anonymous group of employees who say they fear retribution from some faculty members launched a Peace Movement on Friday. Heather Kobbe, human resources director, and Shelby Wetzel, …
Can you have peace, and justice too?Two groups at Northwest College are seeking to restore both to the college campus, where repeated conflicts have left some members of the faculty and the administration at an impasse, leaving many students divided on both sides as well.
Calling itself “the silent majority at the college,” an anonymous group of employees who say they fear retribution from some faculty members launched a Peace Movement on Friday. Heather Kobbe, human resources director, and Shelby Wetzel, NWC Foundation director, served as mouthpieces by editing and submitting a letter from the group to the college's faculty and staff. The campus newspaper, the Northwest Trail, first reported the Peace Movement letter on its Web site Friday evening.
In the letter, the group called for an end of classroom diatribes, smear campaigns and toxic behaviors and a return to civility and accountability.
“I was just trying to provide a mechanism for people to try to air their concerns,” Kobbe said. “It's telling that there's a whole other angle out there than what's being reported in the media.”
Wetzel said, “There's a time for employees to speak out and to hold each other accountable for their actions ... We need to remind each other to focus on the students and work to find a higher ground where we can work together with the same mission.
“This is all about trying to help with the frustration and help move beyond the frustration that has been created around here.”
Wetzel is a co-owner of Print Inc., of which the Powell Tribune is a subsidiary.
The Peace Movement letter urged others to join them and show their support by wearing peace buttons.
“The peace symbol is our call for civility,” the letter said. “If you're confronted by others for wearing it, don't feel obligated to respond. Your button will speak for you. It will say, ‘No more extremist politics. Not at our college.'”
The letter prompted another movement, “Justice in Order to Ensure Peace,” spearheaded by NWC alumna ReAnna Kero of Red Lodge, Mont., who graduated from the college last year. She created a Facebook group that has drawn nearly 200 members.
While not currently a student, Kero said she has heard much about the conflicts on the campus, ranging from the firing of former activity director Mike Taylor, also of Red Lodge, to last month's mailing of recruiting letters by NWC President Paul Prestwich to students who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It seems like the administration wants to sweep things under the rug,” Kero said in a telephone call on Monday. “In order for the administration to have respect for students and faculty, they have to be held accountable. They expect us to be accountable.”
Kero said she is doing a “solo act” right now, pending consultations with her advisers at the college. But she plans to mobilize her effort on campus, with supporters wearing buttons of their own, featuring the scales of justice.
“From my communication with students and faculty, it's apparent that there's an environment of fear on campus,” she said. “In order to dissipate it, we need to express our grievances in a constructive and diplomatic manner.”
But that shouldn't be done behind a cloak of anonymity, she said.
“I've noticed that this anonymous group ... they're remaining anonymous so nobody can confront them or ask them questions,” she said. “We will wear our buttons ... We're not afraid of answering questions, and we're not afraid of standing up for what we believe in.”
Kobbe said she wishes people would speak up without anonymity, but she believes it is important for their voices to be heard regardless.
“I realize the anonymity behind it makes this a lot more challenging,” she said. “The goal of this was not meant to be divisive. It was to try to bring people together, but to understand that there's two different views at this point, but only one is able to be vocal at this point. I just know there's a real fear.
“I wish people would speak up,” she said. “I really do ... I'm a true believer that you need to get it out on the table to fix things. Just ignoring it does not make things go away.
“I think faculty and staff need to come together for the best of the students. Sometimes it takes something like this to move in that direction.”
Wetzel said the Peace Movement might be creating additional controversy on campus, but in the long run, she hopes it helps people air their concerns and ease the conflict.