Students packed the Stackel Room in Wilson Commons last Thursday, Jan. 22 for an emergency Minority Student Advisory Board Town Hall meeting in light of a controversial article about racial segregation in Messenger Magazine. Discussion was primarily over the content and possible solutions.
President of MSAB and senior Brittany Carter called the emergency Town Hall meeting in response to the article in question. Messenger Magazine is an opinion-based publication published once a semester.
The article, titled ‘The Problem of Reverse Segregation at the U of R,” criticized minority organizations of ‘reverse segregation.”
‘Reverse segregation happens when minority students choose to interact with other minority students despite the majority (75 percent) white student population,” the article said.
The discussion addressed accusations that groups like MSAB are unwelcoming to white students. The writer mentioned that since white students are the majority of the student population, the demographics of Black Students’ Union, Spanish and Latino Students’ Association, the Office of Minority Student Advisory and Early Connection Opportunity program are evidence of segregation. Because of the controversial nature of the article, it is under Messenger’s policy that such stories can be penned pseudonymously. The article was written under the pseudonym Marcy Cleaver.
When attendees reflected on the issues expressed in the article, many of the students were concerned that Marcy Cleaver’s comments lacked substantial facts and research. President of BSU and senior Ashley Anderson pointed out that the article undermined the history of BSU.
‘It totally overlooked its [BSU] historical background,” Anderson said. ‘BSU started in predominantely white universities.”
Executive board member of BSU and junior Dave Kraft made an opening reflection about BSU’s attempts to integrate.
‘It is hard for others to understand how I’m in BSU, and that it isn’t just for black Americans,” Kraft said. ‘BSU has contacted a variety of campus groups and has made extensive efforts to integrate. But we either get a “no, thank you’ or no response at all because of a bias understanding that most of the student body has about BSU.”
Some students argued that the article singled out specific groups on campus, while other Students’ Association groups can be equally accused of failing to integrate.
Others stressed that ECO and OMSA had given them ample academic, financial and moral support that was pivotal to their success in the University. Concerned students often reiterated that such groups and organizations are not exclusive to any particular race or ethnicity.
On the contrary, a few students viewed the situation with a different perspective. Junior Sara Goico was amongst a handful of students who believed that the meeting lost focus of the true issue.
‘It’s a shame that we complain about the article and not the issue,” Goico said. ‘We need to make an effort to change. This is an issue that all of these groups need to take up with the entire campus community.”
Toward the end of the meeting, the focus shifted from scrutinizing the article to suggesting possible solutions.
Some of the suggestions brought forward included collaborative versions of past events, such as Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness’s performance and D’Motions at last year’s Grand Theft D’Mo event. One student suggested using food as a ground to share cultures.
Another suggestion was to add mottos or taglines to the organizations’ names such as ‘everyone is welcomed.” However, students maintained that keeping the word “Black’ in BSU and “Spanish’ in SALSA were important for embracing their roots and self-pride.
Carter made closing remarks.
‘This may be an opinion that most of the majority has,” she said. ‘But now it’s about educating the entire community.”
Members of various student organizations, including BSU, SALSA, SOCA, Sigma Beta Rho, UR Hip-Hop, Afro-Expressions, Pi Delta Psi and many other groups participated to share their possible solutions to the issue.
The meeting, which was originally scheduled to be held in the Stackel Room, had to be relocated to the Merrill Lynch Lounge because of the unexpectedly high attendance. In conclusion to the meeting, the executive board of MSAB and other invited students have decided to meet this Friday to discuss the issue further
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.