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Complaint over Trump parade at Hanover College spill over to Council
  • Updated

A discussion over the alleged harassment of students from participants of an Oct. 24 Trump parade through Hanover College went on for about 45 minutes at Wednesday night’s Madison City Council meeting.

A debate over what really happened that Sunday has ensued after a professor posted to Facebook student reports of people in the parade were “spitting at students, pulling up signs, and telling a student of color to ‘go back where they came from.’ ”

Hanover College President Lake Lambert III sent out an email to the campus community that week mentioning three different reports of harassment that students reported to Campus Safety. Organizers did not notify the college before taking the 120-plus-car convoy through campus, he said.

He sent another email to organizers of the parade, saying one Latinx student reported being told to “go back where he came from,” another male student said he was called a homophobic slur and a female student said she was called a “Trump-hating bitch,” organizer Greg Sanders said.

Lambert appeared before City Council Wednesday night to voice his concerns over the incident and the precedent it sets for the community.

He said that while he and his family were welcomed into the community when he came to Hanover, these incidents, unless denounced, create an “echo chamber” that project voices of divisiveness.

Lambert said he had already met with representatives from the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce and human resources departments from area companies who said they knew of employees or other people with similar experiences in Jefferson County.

He added that while some may have seen it as an isolated incident, for visitors or newcomers who encounter such situations, that is their experience with the community and they would have no idea whether that view was shared widely with the community or if it truly was a one-off incident.

“The only way that we can communicate that it is not is as leaders of this community, more forcefully communicating that that is not who we are, that we do not agree with that behavior, that we are a welcoming community, and that we welcome all people from all walks of life from all different groups,” Lambert said. “That’s my hope that as a community we can move forward with.

“It’s something that Hanover College needs and wants. It is imperative that that is the message this community sends. I need that message to be communicated loud, repeatedly and clearly so that I can continue to recruit the best students from across the country and around the world.”

Mayor Bob Courtney responded by saying the city already had processes in place to handle such incidents, namely the Humans Relations Commission (HRC) that has been around since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and has had a “steady hand” through tumultuous times in local and national history he said.

Courtney added that the city had also reaffirmed its resolution on anti-discrimination and the protection of diverse individuals on June 3. He noted that no complaints of the Hanover incident were received by the HRC and asked that when there are allegations and complaints, they should be vetted through the right leadership channels.

He also pointed to the dangers of social media in inflaming the situation, creating even more divisiveness and pitting people of different opinions against each other. Courtney said he hoped the college held its staff to the same code of conduct.

Regarding the HRC, however, Lambert said that he had attended the past couple meetings, where members said they were concerned about the degree of power the commission actually has and the actions they can take.

Courtney admitted there was probably work to be done on getting the right members on the commission and letting the community know there was infrastructure for handling those kinds of complaints.

City Clerk-Treasurer Rick Berry, who helped organize the parade with the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, said the nature of the accusation on social media bothered him.

Berry said the professor who first posted about the alleged incidents would not bring the students with her to meet with Berry out of wanting to protect them, but when Berry offered to meet with her after students gave her information she could present as evidence, the professor told him it was not her responsibility to come up with evidence; rather, it was his job to prove it didn’t happen. She took down the entire social media post down shortly thereafter, Berry said.

After Berry asked Lambert what evidence he had of the incident, Lambert said he had statements from students to the director of Campus Safety and that Safety had reviewed surveillance video and found evidence showing that the alignment of cars and timing matched student descriptions in at least two of the cases. However, he said there was no audio or high enough resolution to read lips and the students apparently did not video the incident on their mobile devices, he said.

The accusations combined with a lack of evidence frustrated Berry.

“I’ve been in two Trump parades and I’ve been to a Trump rally, and they’re made up of the most patriotic people you’ll ever meet in your life — grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, kids, young people — they are a celebration of our country and they are a celebration of our president,” he said.

Berry then referenced “relentless attacks on our president, non-stop with no evidence,” like impeachment and the Special Counsel investigation into the 2016 election. He said the parade was Trump’s supporters’ outlet for showing pride in their country and president.

“This is all crazy. And I hate to see our young people get filled with these kinds of thoughts. Because we are a great country, and the people in these parades are great people. I talked to people in the front of the parade, in the middle of the parade and in the back of the parade — they’ve called me and none of them said they saw anything,” Berry said.

At that point Courtney interrupted, noting that a polar political climate, identity politics and inability of people of different opinions to get along resulted in an escalated situation. He voiced a need for a path to resolving differences in non-hostile ways.

Berry then spoke more apologetically, noting college students had no reason to worry about coming to Madison.

“It breaks my heart to hear them say they’re afraid to come into town, because there’s nothing for them to be afraid of. We love when the college kids come to town and they’re welcome everywhere as far as I can tell,” Berry said.

Lambert concluded by saying guests were always welcome on Hanover’s campus, but this scenario was a little different. He made an analogy to a neighbor’s pond he used to fish from with his father as a child.

“The guy was really nice in letting us fish there — we never had to ask — but I didn’t invite my church picnic there, I didn’t bring my Boy Scout troop to camp there and I didn’t bring my marching band to play there either,” Lambert said.

During a public comment period, longtime Jefferson County resident and former Southwestern teacher Kettig Coghill said he resented the idea that the community was particularly racist. Coghill attended the parade and pointed out the lack of video evidence supporting any harassment as a suspicious hole in the allegations considering that camera phones have become so common.

“I taught high school for 30 years, folks, and students lie,” Coghill said. “…The suggestion that Hanover College students should use a buddy system to go to Madison or Hanover also offends me … I support diversity in every way and I have found that that’s true with most of the people I know … Do we have bigots? We’ve got some. Do we have some rednecks? We’ve got a few. We’ve got some racists. We can’t control every individual.”

Coghill then relayed some statistics to point out Hanover College’s own lack of diversity.

Hanover senior and nontraditional student Katherine McCall also spoke. Having participated in the Hanover Trump parade and another in Cincinnati, she said the backlash had made her consider transferring schools, even with four classes left before graduation.

McCall, 32, said she received distressing texts and emails from students of color, some of whom she tutored and was close to, saying they supported her but worried about her returning to campus for her safety and mental health. She said she also received an email from a staff member she was close with, calling her and everyone in the procession a white nationalist.

“As someone who cut her teeth doing relief work in war-torn Africa in my 20s and later in the Middle East, and finally in China for three straight years with only one trip home, being called that is about the highest insult I could possibly conceive of,” she said.

Greg Sanders, the organizer of the event, gave his reasoning for driving on campus. The purpose was to capture video of the procession going around the scenic overlook to send to the Trump campaign, he said. He also wanted to honor Vice President Mike Pence’s alma mater.

Sanders publicly apologized to Lambert for the fallout from the parade and condemned any action of harassment, racism or intimidation if it happened.

“There is no place for that in our community — in our town, our county, the City of Madison — anywhere. And moving forward I want to be part of that, as [Mayor Courtney] spoke about, the bridge. Bridging the gap between those that feel intimidated and those of us that can help them feel welcome in this community,” Sanders said.

Madison resident and Trump parade participant Rick Ruess also spoke and denied that there was any harassment. He addressed Lambert directly and noted that because of taxpayer-funded grants like 21st Century Scholars and Next Generation Hoosier scholarships, he also had equity in the property.

“As far as visiting your pond, that’s partly my pond. I understand you’re a private college, but we also have some equity in that as well … if you have video of something, show it. Because we were called liars because we asked about that … you have to be able to back it up and have the people to accuse you,” Reuss said.

Council member Patrick Thevenow thanked the speakers for bringing the discussion forward.

“It’s a difficult subject and it’s a difficult conversation for us all to have, but one that is necessary as we work to build better bridges and there’s always work to be done in our country and our city, and always work to be done to build a more perfect union,” Thevenow said.

“I appreciate President Lambert taking the time to address the community at our recent city council meeting, as well as, everyone who also took time to share their perspectives on the matter of diversity. I hope it came across clearly that nobody has the moral high ground to accuse others of behavior they themselves might be tacitly endorsing and that hate, discrimination, intimidation, bias, racism, or bigotry has no place in our community,” Courtney said later. “We all agreed there is work to do on this front and I pledge to do my part to work more closely with our Commission on Human Relations toward a more inclusive and diverse community for all and I believe President Lambert will do the same.”


News
County contributes to Heritage Park purchase
  • Updated

Jefferson County Commission on Thursday agreed to contribute $15,000 to the Heritage Trail Conservancy of Madison to help the organization purchase the final piece of property the group needs to develop a heritage park along the Ohio River in downtown Madison.

Bob Greene, who has spearheaded the Heritage Trail project since its inception, said the land is located in the “heart of the park” and while it is available now, if the organization cannot come up with funds by the Dec. 17 closing, other buyers could step forward and it would be “catastrophic to not get this property.”

The Heritage Trail, considered one of the gems in Southern Indiana in terms of outdoor recreation and public green space where visitors can enjoy the beauty of nature, winds its way from the Ohio Riverfront to Madison’s hilltop, traversing through bottomland and up the wooded hillside while following along the city’s historic railroad incline and over a historic stone arch bridge. The trail also connects with the Madison Riverfront Development Committee’s Riverwalk to provide a pedestrian walkway from the Milton-Madison Bridge to the former rail line and then on to the hilltop.

All told the conservancy owns 23 acres of property in downtown Madison — mostly purchased through donations from private individuals, local businesses and industries and fundraisers — but the missing piece is the tract right in the middle of a proposed park site that would one day include a shelter facility capable of hosting educational and entertainment events, a stream feature and other natural areas for use by children and other visitors.

“We want a place where children can explore their world,” Greene said.

He added that the group needs about $200,000 to buy the property to complete the park footprint and most of that money has once again been raised through private donations, including a $100,000 contribution from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous. He asked county officials for a $15,000 contribution to put the project over the top and clear the way for the closing in December.

Greene said once the Conservancy owns the property it will be better positioned to compete for grants that will help complete the group’s vision of developing the property.

“We want world class features,” Greene said, later adding, “The potential here for what we want to do is just stunning.”

Commissioner Robert Little said he appreciates the group’s vision for the property and that the proposed shelter looks to be suitable to accommodate a number of events like weddings and other gatherings. Little said he hopes the group’s vision for the project can be realized and noted Jefferson County needs more facilities like that in a number of its communities.

Commissioner David Bramer agreed, noting the proposed shelter’s size and design would be an asset as a venue for music concerts, plays and other entertainment.

In other business

• Heard a report by Bramer that construction documents are being drawn on the county’s jail project with plans to advertise for bids in mid-December. In a related matter, Bramer said a recommendation will also be made to hire a construction manager, possibly later this month, to oversee the project and all the contractors and subcontractors who will build the $35 million facility.

Bramer displayed several design sketches on what the facility will look like and said the county’s Jail committee has worked with the sheriff and courts to accommodate most of the needs identified during months of study. The facility will not feature a courtroom but Bramer noted Jefferson County has very few jury trials. The facility will have a training area where the jail can hold classes and seminars for staff members as well as jail employees from other jails in the region.

• The Commission accepted a bid from KLB Excavating of Austin to upgrade an undersized 7-foot culvert on County Road 1525 West into a bridge. KLB’s $276,732.05 bid was the lowest of eight bids on the project and more than $100,000 lower than the highest bid.

• Heard a report that the Safe Haven Baby Box — a secure place of last resort where a mother can safely and anonymously surrender a newborn she is unable to care for — that was to be located at the Jefferson County EMA building. The device will now probably be located in downtown Madison and King’s Daughters’ Health, which has the expertise and staff to deal with newborns, has formed a partnership with Safe Haven Baby Boxes and The Madison Mission to provide services.


News
Health Department sounds alarm as COVID cases rise
  • Updated

With the US reporting back-to-back days with more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases — including more than 120,000 alone on Thursday — the virus pandemic that has gripped the country now going on 10 months seems to be getting worse rather than better.

Indiana and Jefferson County are no exception to that trend with 200,823 positive cases statewide since March — including 4,714 on Thursday — and more than 500 cases now in Jefferson County with more than 100 of those in just the past week, according to local health officials.

The Jefferson County Health Department reported Thursday that the county’s current COVID positive case count stands at 517 with 103 new positive cases this week. Of that total, 278 cases are considered active — meaning they are still in their isolation period or still having symptoms. District 9, the district in which Jefferson is located, has seen hospitalization rates rise continually this past week.

“As we stated last week, and we will continue to repeat ourselves, we ALL as individuals, business owners, community leaders, need to do our part to ensure the safety and prosperity of Jefferson County. If positive cases and hospitalizations continue to increase we may be pushed back to Stage 4 or 4.5,” JCHD said in a news release. “We are working hard with our schools to keep them open. We have had two schools make the decision to switch to virtual learning for a short period of time, we fully support this decision. Other schools have been able to weather storm, for now. We can get these students back into the classrooms if we all do our part.”

Citing the rise in COVID cases, Prince of Peace Catholic Schools and Hanover College both made the decision to switch to virtual.

Shawe Memorial High School and Pope John Elementary students will do live virtual learning until at least Nov. 17 and cancel all sporting events and practices. Other schools in neighboring counties are also being impacted while others are trying to weather the storm.

Hanover College, which reportedly has more than four dozen posirtive cases of COVID, actually made the decision late last month.

“To continue ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff, we are implementing the next steps in our COVID-19 response strategy,” the college posted on its website. “We know many students would like to finish the term on campus or need to for various reasons, and the College wants to make this possible. We are also aware that many students would prefer to finish the term from home.”

“All courses will move to remote instruction no later than Monday, Nov. 9 ... Your faculty members will be in touch about specific plans for their courses ... residential halls and Greek houses will remain open to students until 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.”

Earlier this week, Trimble County Schools in Kentucky were closely watching infection rates there while pondering wether to switch back to virtual learning as the school had finished last school year and started this school year. The district issued a statement Friday morning, noting that while Trimble County remains in the “red” category in terms of infections, the number of cases involving students — three cases this past week, all now in quarantine — is much lower than the community.

“Since our case and quarantine rate is still relatively low in the school district, TCPS will continue with in-person classes next week, November 9-13. In addition, we will continue to monitor the status of our district and county incidence rates in order to make informed decisions as to whether we will continue with in-person instruction, implement a hybrid schedule to reduce the number of students in the building or explore the possibility of transitioning to virtual learning for a period of time,” the district said in a release. “In the meantime, we have enacted stricter guidelines for tonight’s football game and will most likely cancel middle school basketball games scheduled for next week to help protect the ability to continue ‘in-person’ classes.”

Meanwhile, Jefferson Circuit Judge D.J. Mote this week canceled a jury trial scheduled for Monday and told those summoned for jury duty to stay home.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the current deterioration in local health conditions, the Jefferson Circuit Court is canceling the jury trial scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 at the Venture Out Business Center,” Mote wrote. “ Any member of our community who has received a summons to appear for jury duty may disregard their summons.”

According to JCHD, local residents “have the tools right at our fingertips to slow this spread down.”

The health department urged residents to social distance from those outside their household, mask up at indoor public spaces

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regardless of social distancing and outdoor public spaces if social distancing cannot be achieved, avoid large crowds (indoors and outdoors), stay home if you are sick and be diligent about hand washing and hand sanitizing.

One of the bonuses to wearing a face mask and diligent hand washing is that it also helps protect against acquiring the more common seasonal influenza.

The health department also said quarantining of close contacts is a way to slow the spread and anyone contacted by an Indiana Department of Health contact tracer or a Jefferson County Health Department staff member, should answer the call. It is important to follow their guidelines and work with them to identify other residents who may be at risk.

Those who have been in contact with an infected person should stay home for 14 days after the last exposure, try to maintain a 6-foot distance from other household members and use separate restrooms if possible. In addition, they should avoid travel, wash hands frequently, wear a facemask when around others, monitor for symptoms and seek testing.

There are several testing opportunities available to Jefferson County residents and most are free of charge. The current sites include:

• King’s Daughters’ Hospital Convenient Care, 443 E. Clifty Drive, Madison, IN 812-273- 5372 you can pre-register online for your test at https://sched uling.coronavirus.in.gov/ • Optum/LHI testing site, 208 W. Main Street, Madison, IN 47250 888-634-1116, you can pre-register on line at https://lhi.care/covidtesting • King’s Daughters’ Hospital Isolation Clinic, 1373 East St. Road 62 Madison, IN 812-801-8010 • PMC Urgent Care, 311 Clifty Drive, Madison, IN 812-274-2742 • CVS Pharmacy, 500 Clifty Drive, Madison, IN 812-273-2117 For additional information, call the Jefferson County Heath Department at 812-273-1942.


News
Gains put Biden on cusp of presidency
  • Updated

WASHINGTON — Democrat Joe Biden was on the cusp of winning the presidency on Friday as he opened up narrow leads over President Donald Trump in the critical battlegrounds of Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Those put Biden in a stronger position to capture the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House. The winner will lead a country facing a historic set of challenges, including a surging pandemic and deep political polarization.

The focus on Pennsylvania, where Biden led Trump by more than 9,000 votes, and Georgia, where Biden led by more than 1,500, came as Americans entered a third full day after the election without knowing who will lead them for the next four years. The prolonged process added to the anxiety of a nation whose racial and cultural divides were inflamed during the heated campaign.

Biden was at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, as the vote count continued and aides said he would address the nation in primetime. Trump remained in the White House residence as more results trickled in, expanding Biden’s lead in must-win Pennsylvania. In the West Wing, televisions remained tuned to the news amid trappings of normalcy, as reporters lined up for coronavirus tests and outdoor crews worked on the North Lawn on a mild, muggy fall day.

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, was quiet — a dramatic difference from the day before, when it held a morning conference call projecting confidence and held a flurry of hastily arranged press conferences announcing litigation in key states.

With his pathway to reelection appearing to greatly narrow, Trump was testing how far he could go in using the trappings of presidential power to undermine confidence in the vote.

On Thursday, he advanced unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that his rival was trying to seize power in an extraordinary effort by a sitting American president to sow doubt about the democratic process.

“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.

The president pledged on Friday, in a statement, to pursue challenges “through every aspect of the law” but also suggested that his fight was “no longer about any single election.” Biden spent Thursday trying to ease tensions and project a more traditional image of presidential leadership. After participating in a coronavirus briefing, he declared that “each ballot must be counted.”

“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”

Trump showed no sign of giving up and was was back on Twitter around 2:30 a.m. Friday, insisting the “U.S. Supreme Court should decide!”

Trump’s erroneous claims about the integrity of the election challenged Republicans now faced with the choice of whether to break with a president who, though his grip on his office grew tenuous, commanded sky-high approval ratings from rank-and-file members of the GOP. That was especially true for those who are eyeing presidential runs of their own in 2024.

Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, a potential presidential hopeful who has often criticized Trump, said unequivocally: “There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before.”

But others who are rumored to be considering a White House run of their own in four years aligned themselves with the incumbent, including Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who tweeted support for Trump’s claims, writing that “If last 24 hours have made anything clear, it’s that we need new election integrity laws NOW.”

Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity, saying it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and had filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.

But judges in the three states quickly swatted down legal action. A federal judge who was asked to stop vote counts in Philadelphia instead forced the two sides to reach an agreement without an order over the number of observers allowed.

“Really, can’t we be responsible adults here and reach an agreement?” an exasperated U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond said during an emergency hearing Thursday evening. “The whole thing could (soon) be moot.”

In Pennsylvania, officials had not been allowed to process mail-in ballots until Election Day under state law, and those votes went heavily in Biden’s favor.

Mail ballots from across the state were overwhelmingly breaking in Biden’s direction. A final vote total may not be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted, including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area. The AP has declared Biden the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

“The Associated Press continues to watch and analyze vote count results from Arizona as they come in,” said Sally Buzbee, AP’s executive editor. “We will follow the facts in all cases.”

Trump’s campaign was lodging legal challenges in several states, though he faced long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared.

Some of the Trump team’s lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted. A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign’s suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed. And a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots

Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits were legally “meritless.” Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”


News
Slygh named to Kring's seat on MCSB
  • Updated

Madison Consolidated Schools Board of Trustees on Thursday night selected Lori Slygh, a guidance counselor at Southwestern High School and formerly at Madison, to fill a seat vacated by former board president Rob Kring until the end of 2022.

Kring, a board member since 2014, announced he would resign at an Oct. 7 meeting to move to Ohio to be closer to family. The board received six applicants for the position and interviewed them candidates during a special work session on Oct. 19.

Before the board made a decision, however, school board member-elect Jay Roney brought up complaints about an alleged breach of bylaws in the way the board made its decision.

Roney said he was told on Oct. 8 that Kring had resigned. Having been excited about potentially working with Kring on the board, Roney reached out to Kring and asked if he would reconsider, he said.

Roney later heard rumors that Sly had already been chosen as Kring’s replacement and began to worry that discussions about a candidate away from open meetings would violate the district’s bylaws and open door policy.

“Later that day I went back and watched the board meeting via Facebook and I heard Ms. [Joyce] Imel (a board member), go on the record and say there had seemed to be a discussion about something she was not involved with. All of this led John [Schutte] and I writing a letter to the school board to follow the bylaws …

“My main concern is the way this was handled from the beginning. It may not look good in the public’s eyes. I’m also concerned that the citizens who wrote in letters of intent did so for no reason because some of you, I believe, already decided back on Oct. 8, or maybe even before,” Roney said.

Roney said he also shared the information with the other school board member-elect, David Storie, and a few other candidates interviewed for the seat last week.

“At first — I’m going to be honest — I was worried about coming forward sharing this since the company I co-own has a service contract with the school. But we as board members have a duty to be transparent and follow the [Indiana School Boards Association] code of ethics, as well as the bylaws,” Roney said.

Board member Jeanne Dugle nominated Slygh for the seat, after which Imel nominated George Alcorn. When it came time to vote, Dugle, Larry Henry and Jodi Yancey voted for Slygh, while Imel was the sole board member in favor of Alcorn.

The board then nominated and voted Dugle to fill in as board secretary through December.

After the meeting, Superintendent Jeff Studebaker would not comment on whether he thought board members colluded, but said the board followed proper procedures on advertising and interviewing candidates.

“We were really concerned that night when he put it out there that if that made the paper that it was going to scare off candidates … some folks have really taken offense to the fact that it appears this was taken care of behind the scenes,” he said.

Following the board member decision, the board held a work session on facilities projects to be approved at the regular board meeting on Nov. 11.


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