A note from the co-editors of The Siskiyou:
The following article is a summary of the meeting that occurred on campus on March 3rd between members of the BSU and President Schott. During this meeting the students and president discussed the occurrences of racism on campus. Read our coverage of publicized racism here and here. Many of the students in attendance voiced that they do not feel safe on SOU campus. Emotions were running high during the meeting and the article below is a student’s perspective of what occurred. The Siskiyou is planning further comprehensive coverage of University governance and the Bias Response System in Spring Term. Thank you for reading.
On Tuesday, March 3rd in the Stevenson Union game room, members of BSU, students of color and allies met with University President Linda Schott to discuss the reoccurrences of racist vandalism on campus. Senior Executive for Equity and Diversity, Suresh Appavoo, revealed that these occurrences have been accruing since October of 2019. It was said by administrators that SOU has been trying to figure out how to address this situation of racist vandalism, four months after the first threat.
Students were exasperated, feeling as though this response was underwhelming. Students began sharing their experiences of recurring racial bias around the university. There was a correlational agreement among stories that treatment in the enrollment office was less than welcoming, as well as the treatment of students of color on the housing staff. One described the blatant racial bias they received as “evil”. Many students of color expressed that they do not feel safe on their own campus.
It was clear the longer the conversation persisted, that the President’s responses were less than reassuring. “Some faculty members are very concerned about this,” Schott said in response to a student recalling the racial bias in the classroom; an unnamed criminal justice professor had shown graphic videos of black people being shot by police in lectures. This teacher would show these videos, defending the cops that committed the acts of police brutality. Schott went on to talk about the cares report process, “I know that we got an email earlier today from Andrew Gay…asking ‘how can faculty help?’…I think this is a great topic for us to make progress on!”
Every response from President Schott was proposed as something she ‘can’ or ‘will’ do, while there has been little action to eradicate the threats of white supremacy lurking on this campus. The list of questions got longer. The students of color in that meeting withdrew, not receiving any hope from the leader of their school. After tears of frustration were shed, a voice came from the back of the room speaking the words these students needed to hear, the words were from Psychologist and Yoruba Priestess, Flora M. White-Cooper. White-Cooper made the following statement to the President:
“If [students of color] can’t depend on you, your campus, your administrators to learn to provide a safe and comfortable environment for them…where do you want them to go? It’s that simple! This is every single day in their face, they have to be able to depend on your campus. This is your campus! You set the outline! There are no excuses…You set the outline, period, about how this campus is gonna feel for them, how it’s gonna function for them, or not function for them.”
Muffled cries of relief from surrounding students resonated as Flora gave them a voice. Schott sat and listened to her speak for five minutes. Each statement White-Cooper made, covered each basis of student concern. At the end of the day, students of color just want to feel safe on their campus, a privilege 70% of SOU’s student body gets to enjoy on a daily basis. It is agreed that SOU administrators did not do their part in cultivating a safe environment for POC students against blatant threats of racism. The prioritization and time management of each bias report on every slur written has taken too much time. Keeping SOU in the dark about these situations for so long is considered dangerous for the students of color that could be the next target of petty harassment, or worse.
It is up to President Schott and her cabinet to dissect every micro-aggression, biased employee, and lack of considerate perspective to eradicate evident bias within her own system and protocol. More action needs to be taken and taken now before SOU gets a mass exodus of students who no longer feel safe here. It is up to Schott to gain some perspective outside of her own, and start proactively planning the outline for her campus.