By: Caitlin Wolfarth, Staff Writer
Student groups including the Black Student Union, TU’s chapter of NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women and the Eta Xi Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho canceled individual events Wednesday, Nov. 11 in favor of joining together for an impromptu discussion on race and the University of Missouri.
SGA Assistant Director of Diversity Outreach Cambria Conley, Student Government Association Senator Korey Johnson and Donyetta Pitchford organized the event in response to the racial tension, protests and resignations that have occurred around the University of Missouri in recent weeks.
“[We did this] so that we could come together to speak on the event happening at Mizzou and just share and reflect personal experiences here at Towson involving racism, discrimination, etc.,” Conley said. “It was our hope that we could form a list of solutions to make Towson a safe space and inclusive environment for all students.”
According to a Washington Post timeline, racial tension has been high in Missouri since protests began in Ferguson in 2014.
In April, a swastika was drawn inside a Mizzou residence hall. This past September, the university’s student body president was called the N-word by a group of young individuals in a pick-up truck. In October, a black students’ play rehearsal was interrupted by racist statements.
In an attempt to fix the problem, the university announced mandatory diversity training for incoming freshmen, which received mixed feelings from students. On Oct. 10, students protested at their homecoming celebration and blocked University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe’s car.
On Oct. 20, the student group Concerned Student 1950 demanded Wolfe to resign, among other demands for the university.
Four days later, another swastika was smeared in feces on the wall and floor of a residence hall bathroom. On Oct. 26, Wolfe met with Concerned Students 1950, but did not meet their demands.
On Nov. 2, a graduate student began a hunger strike, and said he would not eat until Wolfe resigned. On Nov. 6, Wolfe acknowledged and apologized for the racism and the way student protests were handled. On Nov. 7, the football team announced they would stop playing until Wolfe resigned or was fired.
Wolfe pledged to stay, however, state legislators called for his
resignation and he decided to step down on Nov. 9.
The first half of the student-organized event focused on sharing personal experiences involving racism and discrimination, in which students got up to speak in the middle of a large circle of peers. During the second half of the event, students discussed possible solutions.
SGA Senator Sey Elemo urged black students to be “unapologetically black everywhere [they] go.” She told students to not be afraid to speak up when someone says something they find problematic.
SGA Vice President Taylor James said that one solution involves focusing “on how we educate students on hate speech and its harmful effects on how students live day to day.”