Students expressed frustration at being a minority on campus at a forum Tuesday while discussing and examining events at Yale, Missouri and other college campuses.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs organized a forum called “Missouri, Yale… ACU?” to examine protests dealing with racism occurring on college campus around the U.S.
Prentice Ashford, director of OMA, said he and others organized the forum after the other college campuses’ issues were brought to national attention.
“I knew the campus needed a way to digest this, whether students knew about it or not,” Ashford said. “We had a lot of questions, and I knew we needed an environment where we could come together and just sort of digest all that’s going on and see how that relates to our university.”
The forum, purposed to be a conversation between members of the attending student body, featured Ashford asking three questions and allowing about 20 minutes after each for students to talk back.
After Ashford asked the questions, students fired their own back at members of administration in the room – Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, Provost Dr. Rhodes and Vice President for Student Life Chris Riley.
Rhodes acknowledged previously unaddressed racial tensions on campus, as with other campuses across the nation, in his response to the students.
“I think when we come here, it has to look different, and it’s going to be a little bit more messy,” he said. “So my hope would be that as faculty we learn, as administrators we learn and we listen to each other, but we also know, too, that we don’t really have a good example to turn toward; we’re creating that right here.”
Schubert followed with his remarks, saying the university had to do better for its students.
Students responded to the first question, “How did they (institutions) get to the point of frustration spilling over?” by saying college administration cannot continue to ignore problems dealing with race.
Through conversation, they helped break down the function of a university and how involved one should be in each student’s development. Several students said the administrations of Yale, Mizzou and other campuses should have listened to the students complaints and dealt with the issues through more open communication.
The second question, “How do we prevent similar actions from happening at ACU?” spurred a more emphatic reaction from students.
Khamise Green, senior music education major from Odessa, Shakur Smith, sophomore marketing major from Indianapolis, Indiana, and other students called for the university’s members of administration and their peers to recognize the issues on ACU’s campus, rather than allowing them to continue in silence.
A couple students and Dr. Jeanene Reese, associate chair of the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry, were heard saying, “there is a problem here” and calling for the campus in its entirety to be educated on racial issues and tensions, encouraged to try to understand the varying experiences of classmates and for the students, faculty and staff to take action in making the atmosphere change.
The last question, “How can ACU provide an environment where all students feel safe and at home?” was met with varying responses.
Some students answered by saying it’s unrealistic for ACU to feel like home to everybody attending, based off the varying backgrounds and experiences of the student body.
Other students, such as Taylor Crumpton, junior psychology major from Coppell, and Samone Smith, junior Bible, missions and ministry major from Indianapolis, said ACU cannot be a safe place for minorities until the university leaves its comfort zone, admits to the problems on campus and creates consequences for actions that make students feel unsafe.
Green said being able to see administration members like Schubert and Rhodes present and listening to students was reassuring that some action might be taken to make them feel safer on campus.
“I know that there will be students who think that this is irrelevant, that this is pointless, that this is just another Chapel forum, but it should be understood that if we do not want to see what has happened at these other institutions, that these are the precautionary measures that need to be taken,” he said. “Sweeping things up under the rug is going to cause things to spill over. It doesn’t take care of the mess, it just puts the mess in another spot. And so, if we’re going to be who we say we are as Abilene Christian University, we have to stop sweeping things under the rug and actually clean house.”
Ashford said a forum focusing on what actions can be taken against racial tensions on campus is set for Monday in the CORE Classroom at 7 p.m.
“I hope administration sees and hears from students who say we need change, we need to feel at home, we need to feel safe,” he said. “I hope that sparks change in the way administration views diversity. There are things we need to change so that not just a majority of our students, but a minority of our students feel like they can be at ACU and feel comfortable and at home.”