When Wilder McCoy, a senior, got involved with the Sewanee student group, he had the word "divest" in his name, which worried them that it might seem combative. The students finally changed the name of their group to the Socially Conscious Investment Club, hoping to signal their desire for cooperation.
"We really got into the spirit of trying to make changes from the inside instead of the outside, or take a more rah-rah approach," McCoy said.
However, some school officials were not friendly in their call to campus votes.
E. Douglas Williams, the school treasurer, asked to meet Mr. McCoy and another student, Jackson Campbell, early last year. At that meeting, according to the couple, Mr. Williams said that presenting a resolution of the faculty was "militant." They said Mr. Williams, who is also a professor of economics, had also made timely comments on how much they earned by being in college and how their actions were reflected in them.
McCoy, who had a pending scholarship, said he had taken Mr. Williams' words as a veiled threat about his status on campus. He worried enough to take his worries to a dean.
When I asked Mr. Williams about that meeting, he told me that he would never threaten a student and then he had approached the couple to apologize for the way they felt about the meeting. He also denied using the term "militant", then called me within an hour to say that he had actually used the word.
That was just one of several exchanges with Mr. Williams and other people associated with the university who indicated that they were not taking student arguments very seriously. And given the lack of progress so far, students have begun to wonder if the school is running out of time.
"They are very aware that we are here for four years, and maybe there are three where people are active enough to be able to fight for change," McCoy said. "So I think they are very interested in a strategy of waiting for some people to graduate."