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Lincoln University students, alumni demand mental health support, accountability from university leadership

A photo of Falon Ensley, Tyree Stovall and Kenlyn Washington.
Katelynn McIlwain
Falon Ensley, Kenlyn Washington and Tyree Stovall stand together after presenting demands and questions to the Lincoln University Board of Curators. Ensley is the former student government president. Stovall is the former Mr. Lincoln University. Washington is the 89th student government president.

Dozens of Lincoln University students and alumni are demanding accountability from university leadership after the suicide death of their former vice president for student affairs, Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey. At the Lincoln Board of Curators meeting Thursday, protestors raised up pictures of Candia-Bailey as students Falon Ensley, Kenlyn Washington and Tyree Stovall sat before the board to present their demands and questions.

They wore T-shirts that read, “Karma is a beast.” It’s a line that Washington said was in Candia-Bailey's final remarks that called out the alleged harassment from John B. Moseley. Moseley, who is on voluntary paid leave, is currently under third-party investigation for his conduct, and board members said they expect an update from the investigation in the coming weeks. The students are calling for Moseley’s removal and the removal of the entire Board.

Stovall said the protesting started around 8 in the morning, as students marched from the Scurggs University Center to Richardson Fine Arts Center Auditorium, where a convocation was taking place.

“Our presence has been good and everything, we’re kind of getting more students involved,” Stovall said. “Students are seeing it, they come to get shirts, they come to support the movement and everything they’ve got going on.”

At the open session in the afternoon, Ensley, Stovall and Washington made five demands: open session meetings, meetings with the university’s student government association once a month, mental health support, secure and safe housing and a president who can not only advocate for faculty, student, staff but also bring their campus culture back.

Washington, who’s the president of the university’s general assembly, said Candia-Bailey's death is drawing needed attention to concerns that students have been raising for years.

“We need something to happen, we’ve been saying this constantly for years and years, and like I said, she gave us this light, but it’s been so — it took her light, but we should have been talking about this a long time ago,” Washington said.

After the students listed their demands, the Board fielded several questions from them, ones that called out the mediation process when there’s conflict among university leadership and investigated the criteria the board will using in the future hiring practices. They asked if mental health was a priority for the board and how the Board is addressing complaints about the conditions of their residence halls.

Acting President Stevie Lawrence II said he’s committed to touring the residence halls to investigate the issues for himself. He said the university is also reviewing a new food contract but can’t yet disclose with whom.

After Ensley, Stovall and Washington left the meeting along with many other demonstrators, Lawrence also presented a plan to the Board for expanding the university’s current wellness committee to provide mental health resources for students. Lawrence said this could include recruiting wellness ambassadors, adding yoga to the university’s existing Wellness Wednesday program and encouraging relaxation during an existing two-hour break for students on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also reached out to the university, Lawrence said, with an invitation to apply for a $10,000 grant that will help fund these programs.

“I want to be sure that we are successfully articulating the university’s response to where we are presently with our institution and prioritizing mental health,” he said. “Certainly, this is something we need to focus on in a very concerted and organized fashion.”

Board President Victor B. Pasley explained that even though Lincoln University is a historically Black university, being a public university required its integration after Brown v. Board of Education. Board of Curators secretary Everidge Cade said they will continue to consider higher-education experience and passion for the university, not race, in their future hiring practices. Ensley, the former president of the university’s student general assocation, agrees with this focus.

“It’s not about Black and white,” Ensley said. “This is not a race thing and we do not want this to be a race fight, because it’s not about race. It’s about a lack of accountability within our administration, and it’s time for them to be held accountable.”

Students and alumni plan to gather at the Capitol on February 22 to protest again. They said conversations like these are “baby steps” toward what they hope is renewed resolve to support student mental health and well-being.

Katelynn McIlwain, originally from Freeport, Illinois (go Pretzels!), is the managing editor for KBIA. She assists KBIA newsroom leaders in planning, supervising and producing news programming for radio broadcast, including daily news and in-depth reports, as well as public affairs programming.
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