Dear President Fiorentino,
On Sept. 13, a West Chester University student, Taylor Enterline, was arrested alongside six other people during a protest against the Lancaster Police Department’s killing of Ricardo Muñoz. Ms. Enterline’s bail was set at $1,000,000, which quickly garnered criticism from PA Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. On Sept. 15, Lt. Governor Fetterman stated via Twitter: “The 8th Amendment of U.S. Constitution: ‘Excessive bail shall not be required.’ Ms. Enterline’s bail amount is blatantly unconstitutional.”
Students, alumni and faculty members pleaded with you to release a statement of support for a student whose Eighth Amendment rights were being violated. Ms. Enterline is active in several organizations on campus, including the Center for Women & Gender Equity. Countless members of the WCU community, specifically BIPOC students and alumni, rallied behind Ms. Enterline by providing links for bail funds and information to contact local officials.
On Sept. 17, the West Chester University community received an email from yourself and the Cabinet. I discussed this email with current students, alumni and a faculty member. We were all in agreement that this was a vague and disappointing attempt to address the violation of a Black student’s constitutional rights. Frankly, this email never should have left your drafts.
The main issue with your message was your failure to articulate that this was regarding Ms. Enterline’s arrest and excessive bail. You rely on references to “civil disobedience” and “freedom of speech in a non-violent manner” to suggest that the email is about Ms. Enterline, while conveniently never explicitly saying her name. If the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania can say her name and address the unconstitutional nature of her bail, you can, too.
I urge you to follow the example of Franklin & Marshall College President Barbara K. Altmann. Franklin & Marshall College student Kat Patterson was arrested alongside Ms. Enterline on Sept. 13. On Sept. 15, President Altmann released a statement via social media on behalf of senior staff regarding student Patterson’s arrest. President Altmann stated: “We have read the allegations against her, as reported in the LNP. We stand by our students’ constitutional right to protest. And affirm a presumption of innocence.” President Altmann continued, “many of us in our community will be contributing [to a GoFundMe page to assist Kat and her family].” Aside from failing to state Taylor Enterline’s name, the biggest mistake you made in your message was failing to affirm the presumption of innocence.
I have seen you repeatedly state that the university is “reaffirming its commitment” to addressing systemic racism. Expect your students and faculty to hold you accountable to these commitments, even when it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for your image.
Lydia Villalba is a fourth year majoring in English literature education.