Updated: Sep 17, 2020
It’s no secret that Salisbury University has had an unfortunate series of discriminative and racist occurrences both on and off campus.
In previous semesters, SU witnessed threatening, discriminative and racist vandalism within the Fulton and Henson buildings.
More recently, the university faced racist text messages as well as noose-resembling bird feeding structures, both of which were unsettling to SU students.
Racism and discrimination are still major problems that SU minority students face, causing many to call for direct action this semester.
“I do feel safe. However, I do not feel comfortable,” Dorien Rogers, a junior majoring in political science and international studies, explained.
Although Rogers acknowledged the new initiatives the university has taken, such as weekly briefings from SU President Charles Wight, he feels that administration needs to focus on taking direct action.
“What action-oriented solutions are they bringing to the table based on the opinions of the students and faculty?”
A series of racist text messages were reported this summer; however, Rogers felt the First
Amendment was used as an excuse for administration to sustain from reprimanding the students involved.
“We know freedom of speech is embedded within our way of life, but that does not mean actions do not come with consequence,” Rogers explained.
Rogers would have preferred administration to be more vocal, defending minority students who were impacted by the racist messages.
“It [administrative action] would have made me feel safer and more comfortable because at least I would know someone is fighting for me.”
Rogers also feels education could be greatly improved, as only incoming students are required to partake in online diversity training.
Rogers recalls the failed Diversity Inclusion General Education Requirement motion, a motion in which diversity and inclusion would have become a general education requirement at SU.
“If the same people keep showing up to the same dialogue of diversity inclusion, are you bringing any more change to the community?”
Rogers would like SU to revisit the Diversity Inclusion General Education Requirement motion, as it would affect all students, not just a fraction of the SU community.
Keona Kyler, a junior majoring in communications, agrees that changes to SU’s administration are crucial to supporting SU’s minority students.
“I think they say they care, but actions speak louder than words,” Kyler expressed.
Kyler recalls the shockingly slow response administration had following the racist vandalism incident that occurred during the 2019 fall semester.
“They should have written something within an hour of them knowing.”
Kyler had also noticed administrative action was only taken after students had spoken up.
“I feel like this school doesn’t do enough to make safety a priority for minority students.”
In addition to improved communication between administration and students, Kyler would like to see SU students take further action toward educating themselves and others.
Kyler explained that student organizations, such as SGA and SOAP, could play a greater role in educating students about diversity through their platforms and activities.
Kyler believes this all circles back to the importance of educating administration, students and even campus police.
“It’s really about communication and presence,” Kyler stated.
Taylor Davis, a senior English major, hopes that SU will work to create a better dynamic between campus police and minority students.
“With some black students, even if they’ve never been in trouble, we’ve had a bad relationship with police.”
Davis recalls an experience in which she was brought into an interrogation room shortly after receiving a parking ticket.
Davis remembered thinking, “No one else has ever gone into the police station for a ticket.”
In the room, Davis was then asked if she had been involved in a motor vehicle incident that occurred the night before; she wasn’t.
However, Davis felt the officer only questioned her because the two boys involved in the accident the night before were African American.
“It felt that way because it was two boys that I’ve never seen before, and they both happened to be black.”
Davis stressed the importance of creating a more positive relationship between minority students and campus police.
“I feel like there might be an issue with [the] SU [Police Department] … they may need to train them differently, [like including] cultural training, so there is a better relationship …”
Additionally, many minority students need to feel as though they can trust administration to act quickly when racism or discriminative events occur.
At the time, Davis felt there was no reason to approach administration, as she believed they would not have been able to support her.
“I felt like they weren’t going to do anything at all,” Davis concluded.
Many minority students at Salisbury University are uncomfortable, and not all students feel safe. Changes need to be made to fix this.
Thus, many minority students are asking that all members of the Salisbury community strive to address and support racial and discriminative concerns through action and involvement.
BY OLIVIA BALLMANN
Featured image: Caroline Streett image.