On Thursday more than 500 students gathered outside the student union to hear President David A. Greene and others address and denounce the racially intolerant social media commentary that followed campus demonstrations against racial injustice earlier in the week. After members of Students Organized for Black and Hispanic Unity (SOBHU) protested the shooting deaths of unarmed black men and racial injustice in general, racist and bigoted criticisms of the demonstrations were posted on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak.
Those comments prompted Greene and faculty members to condemn the backlash and call for campus conversations on racial issues, including teach-ins and a dine-in on Tuesday, April 21. Some students said they were surprised and pleased by the direct recognition of issues such as white privilege that Greene and faculty members emphasized in their speeches: “I want to be reminded,” Greene said, “that when one white police officer unloads his gun in the back of an African-American man in South Carolina or in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that we are all culpable for creating a society that thrives on inequity and racial injustice. … I want to be reminded that I have the luxury of not cautioning my son to fear police while many of my friends live in fear that their sons will one day be the victims of institutionalized violence and bigotry.”
Associate Dean of Students Tashia Bradley concluded the gathering, telling the crowd that those who have been holding protests and pushing for conversations on social justice have given the campus a gift. Bradley noted that the teach-ins and dine-in will continue ongoing conversations for some while bringing others into the dialogue for the first time.