Messenger Magazine was created in 1996 to heighten consciousness about progressive issues in race, gender, religion and politics. Historically, it served as the only multi-cultural publication to provide an ‘intellectual” voice to minority populations. More importantly, Messenger supported the Minority Student Advisory Board’s sit-in, during 1999, which protested the University’s indifference to minority student concerns regarding the lack of diversity in the curriculum, faculty and student population.
Unfortunately, it has become glaringly evident in the Fall 2008 issue of Messenger Magazine that this publication has lost its way. In the article, entitled ‘The Problem of Reverse Segregation at UR,” ‘Marcy Cleaver” asserts that the Black Students’ Union, the Spanish and Latino Students’ Association and Multicultural Greek Council sororities and fraternities have ‘failed in their platforms of developing and promoting awareness” because they do not have the support of a seventy-five percent white membership. Furthermore, the call to ‘disband organizations like MSAB” not only illustrates ignorance of the relationship between Messenger and MSAB, but also undermines the historical importance of the organizations which it indicts.
Put simply, if this university had a history of being harmonious and inclusive, these organizations would not exist. BSU and SALSA (the organizations cited in the article), were established on campus in response to an extremely volatile and racially hostile environment. Students of color had to fight for visibility and equality on this campus. These organizations have and will continue to provide a support system for underrepresented students during times of injustice and on a daily basis. This is the spirit in which MSAB was founded to act as a unifying mechanism and governing body in the interest of minorities and to address certain areas of University life, that can be enhanced, through collective action.
We felt the impetus to respond to this article primarily because we believe the designation of ‘reverse segregation” attributed to our organizations are widespread views. However, this is a common misconception on our campus. Our groups serve to educate and provide cultural awareness for an interested audience. Thus, our point is this: self-empowerment is not synonymous with exclusion. All of our organizations are interest groups, like the Chinese Students’ Association and the Filipino American Students’ Association. If students are interested in an organization, they seek information about how they can become involved. Remember BSU, SALSA and MGC are unique in that they are the only organizations on campus that promote cultural awareness in Black, Latino and Greek-life culture, respectively. Essentially, there is a failure on ‘Cleaver’s” part to acknowledge that the solution to this problem must necessarily be a two-way street.
We were particularly concerned with the attacks made on the Office of Minority Student Affairs and its affiliated programs. OMSA extraordinarily serves the multi-ethnic and multi-racial students of the University, so to insinuate that the students served by this office may be weak is incredibly shocking and a callous misrepresentation of OMSA’s mission. Historically, the legacy of inequality in this country has impeded the access that people of color have to higher education, and OMSA hinders the perpetuation of that inequality. Even more appalling is that the University administration has not come out in defense of OMSA, as it is a University-funded office. Additionally, there were implications that minority faculty are not hired based on merit, but merely to achieve a diversity standard ‘the hiring of professors should be based primarily on the candidate’s qualifications and not on ethnicity.” This contention needs to be addressed. It is our belief that a more immediate response by University administration should be extended to OMSA and minority faculty.
Ultimately, we urge the student body to join us at our programs and enjoy the fruits of our hard labor; after all, the programs are for you. Since ‘Cleaver’s” view may be shared by others, we in turn will make a concerted effort to support the events of majority student organizations. We, however, will not tolerate libelous language used against OMSA and our organizations. We will also not tolerate organizations established for the empowerment of blacks and Latinos to be continually singled out on campus. Ironically, in the spring 2008 issue of Messenger Magazine, ‘Cleaver” wrote an article on the power of words, entitled ‘The Problem of Words.” She said, ‘The power of words to hurt is a very real one, and it is important to be aware of the consequences of the particularities of our speech.” The assertions made in ‘Reverse Segregation” bear an absence of factual information and heavy claims that have no substantial evidence. ‘Marcy Cleaver,” you were offensive in your language and very hurtful to students, faculty and alumni. We encourage you (and all who share your perspective) to please take your own advice to heart, and, if you are going to make such acidic commentary, please own your words.
Carter is a member of
the class of 2009.
This Article is written on behalf of MSAB.