On Sept. 8, a group of student leaders participated in their first monthly roundtable in an effort to address the bias incidents that we have seen on campus the past six months. The start of this ongoing dialogue shows a promising step toward strengthening communication between various groups on campus. After an incident last spring at the Sigma Pi fraternity in which bottles were thrown at black students, along with degrading vitriol, the administration responded swiftly and admirably by holding a series of events on campus. While we recognize the efforts that the University took to address racial issues on campus in light of the attack, the University cannot solve these issues on its own and needs students to continue their efforts as well.
We recognize that students have taken action. In response to the attack at Sigma Pi, a student led march demonstrated a commendable effort to raise questions of injustice on campus. The march ended with a series of 11 demands presented to Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’69 and the hanging of a banner with the demands in front of Day Hall. One of these demands requested that the word “diversity” be changed in the University’s lexicon to “anti-oppression,” and another asked that the University create a social justice course requirement.
We doubt that the University’s response would have been nearly as forceful were it not for the way in which students took action in the aftermath of the incident. The University took tangible and important steps by placing Sigma Pi on probation and adding a position for diversity within the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs.
While more than dialogue is needed to address such a persistent issue, these monthly roundtables will serve an important role by keeping this issue relevant, even when not in direct response to incidents. It is not enough simply to respond to these events after they happen. But students and administrators must actively work together to prevent them from happening in the first place. It is our hope that these dialogues, and not hateful incidents, can remind us of just how much we have left to accomplish in addressing this issue.