On Tuesday afternoon over 300 Eastern Michigan University (EMU) students of color marched from the Student Center across EMU's campus to Welch Hall mobilizing after racist vandalism was found painted on the wall of campus building, King Hall. Several student leaders stopped to speak with Interim Provost Rhonda Longworth at Welch Hall. The march then continued down Washtenaw Avenue to the house of the President of Eastern Michigan University.
The student leaders met Provost Longworth and expressed frustration due to lack of immediate resolutions.
“We are taking the incident serious. Our first focus after becoming aware was removing it because that was the primary statement that the message wasn’t acceptable to have on the building. Secondly we made sure we were investigating with the full amount of resources that we could bring to bare. We will continue to do that until we can figure out who is responsible. Our next focus was to gather leaders to get suggestions on how we should resolve the issue and not impose solutions, but to instead listen,” said Rhonda Longworth, Interim Provost, EMU.
Provost Longworth ended the meeting agreeing to attend a meeting on Oct. 7 put together by EMU students of color.
The assembly of students continued on to march through President Smith’s front gate. The students rallied and congregated peacefully in the front of his home for an hour. Following the hour wait the students were met by EMU President James Smith, EMU Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Chiara Hensley and EMU Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Calvin Phillips. The group had just left an administrative meeting discussing potential resolutions and some were shared with the students.
The students were organized and passionate. The student representatives unified on a call for action with results. They called for reassurance due to the discomfort caused by the events that have occurred on campus.
“It’s wrong, and we understand it is wrong. It’s not symbolic of who we are at Eastern Michigan University,” said President James Smith referring to the hate speech incident. President Smith also shared that he and administration respect the student voice.
“It scares me that people are so ignorant, so uninformed, and so hateful,” said President James Smith, EMU.
Educating more faculty and students was a common idea throughout the discussion. The idea was that more knowledge will create a better cultural sensitivity on campus. A curriculum change to incorporate classes that promoted a deeper understanding for race and culture was a popular resolution.
EMU has plans that are geared towards educating faculty on cultural understanding and sensitivity. Administration shared a common belief of wanting to incorporate student’s input, so in response EMU is going to send out a form that allows students to suggest resolutions.
“I’d like to suggest we try something new and that you allow us to capture what it is you are suggesting in a new way, different than we have before, and with a new group of administrators. Each of you can individually go on the form and say this is what I want done at Eastern, and this is what I don’t want to see done at Eastern,“ said, Chiara Hensley, EMU Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs
The ongoing discussion between administration and students surfaced a bigger issue of cultural inequality being deeply rooted on campus. Through their assembly students of color drafted a list of demands and delivered it to administration. Representatives of students of color on campus are calling for their demands to be met, and to be further discussed. The prompt to front yard forum ended with administration agreeing they would work together with the student body to make a strategic plan to specifically address diversity and racism at EMU. The meeting will be held Oct 7.
The students voices were firm on not wanting history to continue to repeat, and they expressed their concern for the future well-being of minorities on campus. President Smith voiced that administration is continuously working on resolutions, and is hopeful that more will come over time and from the meeting on Oct. 7.