On Feb. 13, a racially motivated attack occurred that disrupted a virtual poetry workshop. On Feb. 15, the university sent an email to the SRU community addressing the incident. SRU students felt this email did not explain the severity of the event that occurred.
On Tuesday Feb. 16, student Brooklyn Graham, an executive board member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and member of the President’s Commission of Race and Ethnic Diversity, posted a comment on her personal Instagram page starting the social media trend #SHAMEONYOUSRU.
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In the post, Graham wrote about her frustrations with the university’s response and shared more in-depth details of the incident. Graham encouraged other students to not end the conversation and to share other frustrations.
“I thought it was important to make a statement to let everyone know what was going on so that it is not the same people in the black community retelling and retelling the story and traumatizing themselves,” said Graham.
Students began to add Graham’s post to their social media accounts to spread the word of the severity of the incident. This allowed for students to start and engage with the discussion and voice their frustrations of how the university responded. It is important for students to start conversations and use their voice in a positive way to create a safe space for all communities at SRU.
Due to the storm that Graham’s post started, SRU students were able to meet with the president. Graham expressed that it should not have to take incidents like this to occur to be able to communicate frustrations from African American students. Graham believes that an open line of communication with the president and SRU administration can help.
Julianna Sabol, president of the Gender Studies Club and vice president of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, spoke on her thoughts.
“I think the biggest message that we could send is just to actively listen to our Black and Brown community,” said Sabol. “A lot of the times as students, especially at a predominantly white institution, we insert ourselves into the conversation because we are the dominant race here even though that is a completely different social structure.”
Sabol encourages students to listen and construct a plan with what we hear.
On Feb. 22, SRU held an open forum addressing the incident and the response which allowed for students to listen directly to President Behre and the administration. The forum lasted around two hours and involved discussions between the SRU community with the administration laying out numerous plans to provide a more inclusive campus and eliminate hate within the campus.
Terrence Mitchell, special assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion, spoke at the forum about some action plans in progress. One of these plans was to do research about intergroup dialogue which allows for a more inclusive campus and challenges people’s old notions and ideas around diversity. Another possible action plan is to approach a change through the curriculum. This would allow for students to learn inside and outside of the classroom.
President Behre and the Black student leaders at SRU will also now meet once a month.
“I think if we went about our days and realize that different things affect different people for different reasons, and everyone has their own perspectives,” said Graham. “I feel if we looked at the world in that way, especially on campus, there would have a lot better relationships on this campus, but we don’t because we don’t really see it as that big of a deal when it is.”