As we make way for the next Salisbury University president this coming July, it is important that student voices are heard.
Over the past few years with sitting president Charles Wight, there have been multiple instances of prevalent anti-blackness at SU.
Black Lives Matter protests were at their height in June 2020, when a member of the Salisbury University College Republicans made a joke offensive to Black people in a group chat and another student used a racial slur over text, according to Inside Higher Education. The incidents fell around the same time as vandalism with similar hate speech was written on campus walls.
Wight responded by implementing the 21-Day Anti-Racism Challenge, created by professor Eddie Moore Jr., and SU held its first annual Anti-Racism Summit.
Marginalized populations deserve active justice, not apologetic emails with informational links on the university’s website for an echo chamber of guilted white liberals to click. Anti-racism and critical race theory should be requirements in universities rather than optional chances to educate oneself. Inclusion should apply to other marginalized groups as well, such as the people who are plus-size, disabled and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Someone who has specific experience as a marginalized person is more likely to understand issues of oppression than a cisgender, able bodied white person.
This is not to say that someone with those traits is unable to be president, but rather they do not have the point of view to represent marginalized voices.
If the next president fits those characteristics, hopefully they fully employ anti-racist principles in their own actions before representing students who are not always heard in a predominantly white institution.
The University System of Maryland's Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Joann Boughman said inclusivity and equity are among the "very important principles" part of SU's vision.
“I think we do have a pretty good cross section ... I'm sure as observers that diversity, inclusion, [and] equity are serious challenges," Boughman said. "Each institution has its own place and its own history."
The majority of the presidential search committee is white. The committee ensures our next president will be a perfect inclusive fit. However, the search process is confidential and few students are involved.
Those representing the student body are SGA President Andrew Wilson and Graduate Student Council President Jessica Strange. They are the leading voices for all SU students and are both white people.
Whiteness is often weaponized where racism is systemically embedded among the majority. Coddling white supremacist ideologies seems to be the most frequently used technique when trying to overcome societal issues. White students are given a slap on the wrist for saying a slur "on accident," and students of color are expected to deal with the trauma of bringing about racial awareness.
The pandemic has deeply affected SU community members who are disabled and/ or immunocompromised. These students, faculty and staff must be put first in discussions of COVID-19 policy rather than non-immunocompromised students who whine over mask discomfort.
Death, to me, is much more uncomfortable.
“I can assure you that there are going to be some tough questions asked of [the next president], not only at their understanding of what the pandemic has done to our individuals, our own constituencies and how we're going to move forward from pandemic to endemic because the virus is going to be with us for a while,” Boughman said.
The president's duty is to address and resolve tough situations faced by the campus community. They are meant to lead the university into better horizons and to protect and serve all students, faculty and staff.
Although the virus will never completely go away nor will racism or prejudice, the president can bring awareness to these issues through action and policy enforcement.
SU does not need more reading material to skim over.
By SUMMER SMITH
Featured image courtesy of Carleigh Stokes.