By: Julia Hall—Staff Writer
UD’s Student Government Association passed a resolution in response to a strong concern regarding the unwelcoming atmosphere experienced by minority populations on campus. This official document, titled “Expressing, Executing, and Evaluating the Racial Turbulence on the University of Dayton Campus” was approved Oct. 18.
Kwynn Townsend-Riley, a senior and director of campus unity for SGA, authored the resolution. Her proactivity stemmed from her personal experiences, especially several comments on social media that she received as a result of her opinion columns published in Flyer News.
“The fact that people were really personally offended by my own opinion about the word ‘ghetto’ really baffles me,” Townsend-Riley commented. “I guess I should have known that trying to bring light to such a word that is used synonymously with our community would have an effect on the student body, but I didn’t realize that people would personally take that out on me.”
She received retaliation on Twitter, Facebook and YikYak.
“After my second article, a lot of things started coming up on YikYak,” she said. “People [were] trying figure out where I lived and calling me a racist.”
In response to her frustration, Townsend-Riley, along with friends, fellow students and supporting staff and faculty members, protested on KU plaza. Their intent was to draw attention to their dissatisfaction with the environment on campus.
“The protests were to stand together on the whole issue, not just about the whole ‘ghetto’ thing, but racism in general and UD’s blindness to racism,” Townsend-Riley explained. “You never really hear anything about it from the administration. A lot of us were really just fed up, and we decided to go out on KU plaza and protest it. Now, more than ever, we need the administration to show support for African-American students and minority students in general.”
Townsend-Riley decided to take action by writing the resolution and employing SGA as a resource for support.
“I am very happy that the resolution passed,” said Brandon Rush, a senior psychology major and co-sponsor of the resolution. “I think that it puts SGA explicitly in a position that advocates for minority students or really students in general.”
Both Townsend-Riley and Rush have high hopes for the potential of this document.
“When it comes to different situations, especially racism on campus, a lot of students feel like UD has sort of ignored it,” Townsend-Riley said. “With SGA’s help, nothing will be ignored in the future.”
“I think that on paper, everything about the university fights for inclusivity and justice, but it doesn’t mark any person or group explicitly responsible for doing this,” Rush said. “Moreover, minority issues get pushed to the side for one reason or another. This resolution puts this task of living up to the UD mission on the shoulders of SGA. I see that to be very fitting.”
I think that on paper, everything about the university fights for inclusivity and justice, but it doesn’t mark any person or group explicitly responsible for doing this.”
Mike Brill, senior psychology and political science double major and SGA president, declared his support for the resolution: “I would say, in all aspects of university life, we would hope that SGA is very vocal and visible in its support—but in particular for minority populations that are tossed under the rug and feel that we are not as helpful as we can be for them.”
The content of the resolution sets a milestone and precedent for SGA. The document states SGA “acknowledges that its past responses to racial injustice, or lack thereof, have been inadequate to address student concerns” and “dedicates itself to creating a formal approach to educating the campus about prominent social justice issues.”
“I think that for the average student at UD, I want them to look at this resolution and say, ‘Oh, whether I am a minority student or not, SGA supports me in everything I do here at UD. If I am the victim of some sort of attack, I can go to SGA,’” Brill said. “Students can come talk to us. We will try to stand up for you.”
Brill foresees numerous changes after this resolution.
“You see that being attacked or being on the wrong end of a hateful comment or series of hateful comments, SGA has not necessarily done the best job in the past for standing up for those students,” Brill continued. “This resolution is SGA acknowledging that we could be doing a better job supporting minority students and populations…and that we want to develop a precise protocol in terms of when SGA should respond to an incident on campus and how they should go about doing so.”
The purpose of writing the resolution, outside of providing a promise of support, was to stimulate several events and opportunities to discuss and deliberate issues of race on campus and, furthermore, improve the inclusivity that UD strives to obtain.
Brill said a few projects are currently in the works.
“We are looking into a training program that would help develop our student leaders, maybe student employees and maybe faculty and staff,” Brill said, “that would help make them aware of issues that minority students might face on campus or outside of campus and how to be culturally accepting of them and more knowledgeable.”
In addition to the training, SGA is establishing a dialogue event.
“Another event that is currently being implemented is a round table discussion about the word ‘ghetto,’” Townsend-Riley said. “It is going to be an educational debate, but more so about hearing from both sides.”
Rush encouraged such dialogue: “I hope that majority students lean in and talk to someone that knows about what they are disagreeing with. Too often when we discuss issues of power, privilege and oppression—especially race—majority students feel attacked and retreat. That reaction really gets us nowhere. Find a hall-mate, classmate, teammate, professor, advisor, anyone who can expand your worldview and listen.”
With the passing of the resolution, all students, with an emphasis on our minority demographic, receive an assurance of SGA’s support. The document also encourages students to become active participants in these discussions.
As Townsend-Riley stated, “I want [students] to recognize that ignorance is not innocence. Just because you don’t know something doesn’t mean that you fall short of responsibility of trying to find out what is happening.”
If you have any ideas about how SGA should carry out the resolution, contact Mike Brill at firstname.lastname@example.org.