Davenport speaks with students as VPSA candidate

John+Davenport%2C+dean+of+students+at+Illinois+State+University+and+the+third+candidate+for+Eastern%27s+new+Vice+President+of+Student+Affairs%2C+interviews+with+students+remotely+Wednesday+afternoon.+

Corryn Brock

John Davenport, dean of students at Illinois State University and the third candidate for Eastern's new Vice President of Student Affairs, interviews with students remotely Wednesday afternoon.

Corryn Brock, News Editor

John Davenport, dean of students at Illinois State University, was the third Vice President of Student Affairs candidate to speak with the campus community Wednesday afternoon.

As dean of students, Davenport “(provides) leadership to a comprehensive Dean of Students office consisting of Student Conduct, Student Access and Accommodation Services, Fraternity & Sorority Life, Student Activities & Involvement, Marketing, University Commencement Services, Parent & Family Services, Diversity Advocacy, Leadership and Community Service programs,” according to his vita.

During his open session with the student body, Davenport discussed the white power posters found at Eastern earlier this semester.

Davenport was asked how he would respond to that situation if he was in the role of VPSA.

He said he has experienced a similar situation at ISU and was aware of the incident at Eastern.

“The key for us is unequivocally and quickly to come in and say ‘Hey, this happened, we know about this, this is what it was, Illinois State does not in any way shape or form condone this behavior. If we find out who’s done it, we will take all of the steps possible to either remove those students from campus if we can or make sure those students understand that this is something we don’t tolerate or want on this campus,'” Davenport said.

As many Eastern students expressed they felt the situation was not handled properly, Davenport explained it can be difficult to find solutions to those problems that make everyone in the community happy.

“Making students feel sincerity behind that, and that we’re really, truly doing everything that we can, that takes trust,” Davenport said. “I hope that there (would be) a rapport with me that people know who I am, and if I come back and say ‘We don’t tolerate this, we’re going to find out who did this and deal with them,’ I hope that I will be believed.”

He also discussed the importance of the difference between free speech and threatening speech.

“There are some things that are horrible and distasteful, but people have a right to say them, and so I need to have a conversation with somebody and say ‘This is terrible, and we don’t like this, but this person has the right to say it,'” Davenport said. “And a cliché I hear a lot, though it’s true, is ‘The best way to counter free speech is with more free speech,’ and so I tell people all the time if there’s something going on, get folks together and organize a rally and do something about it to promote your message over that particular message.”

Davenport also discussed his experiences with and ideas for Student Government and Greek Life, proposing a rethinking and reshaping of the way events are planned and held as well as taking an honest look at how the organization is viewed by those who are outside of it.

Davenport said if offered the position, he is most looking forward to meeting people on campus.

“If (students) aren’t there, there’s no need for us. There’s no need for Vice President of Student Affairs, Director of Greek Life, there’s no any of us if the students aren’t there,” Davenport said. “So to me, the most important thing for me to do is introduce myself as quickly as possible to as many students as possible and be in your spaces.”

He said he does not want students to be surprised to see him around campus; instead, he wants his on-campus involvement to be commonplace.

“I want to become common, as weird as it sounds,” Davenport said.  “I want to become a part of the campus tapestry and the campus background and seeing me walk across the campus quad isn’t a weird thing.”

The final candidate for the search is Sean Blackburn, who will be interviewed April 27.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].