By: Rachel Cain – News Editor
Despite the harsh wind, UD students, faculty and administration joined in a demonstration Nov. 12 in KU Plaza to show their solidarity with the students of color at the University of Missouri and to raise awareness about matters of race at UD.
“After reading about the things that were going on at Mizzou and seeing the similarities between some of the tensions there and here, I decided that it was best that we stand in solidarity with those people,” senior Adanna Smith, the organizer of the demonstration, told Flyer News. “We’re not above what went on there.”
At the University of Missouri, also known as “Mizzou,” students of color recently faced an increase of racial insults and threats of extreme violence, including a Yik Yak post that stated, “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.” Student criticism about the school administration’s response to these tensions—fortified by student group Concerned Student 1950, a student on hunger strike and a 30-player boycott on the football team—prompted the president and chancellor to resign.
“I can’t imagine the terror those people felt as they walked into the campus they called their own and were met with death threats,” Smith said. “It hurts my heart to hear that. And, it [frightens] me that it could have been me. I could have been a black student at Mizzou.”
UD students and faculty members came and went to the demonstration as their schedules permitted. At any given time throughout the four-hour event there were about 60 individuals participating, according to Smith.
“This is us standing in solidarity with the students at Mizzou, mostly the black students who are going through the situation with them being harassed and threatened by other students and feeling unsafe on their college campus,” senior marketing major Tiara Jackson said. “And, we can relate to them as college students, especially being a black college student at a predominantly white institution.”
Smith compared the experiences of students of color at Missouri University to backlash to the Black Lives Matter protest at UD in fall 2014.
“The type of hateful speech that the students in Mizzou were receiving mimics some of the things that we heard and we saw last year during our Black Lives Matter protest,” Smith said. “We got on Yik Yak, ‘I hate all black people,’ ‘Segregation should be a thing,’ ‘Should we go to KU [Plaza] in our soccer cleats [during the die-in].’”
Smith organized the demonstration the night before and was extremely pleased with the response she received.
“I’m very glad that word spread like wildfire,” Smith said.
During the demonstration, participants held signs ranging from Malcom X quotes to messages particular to UD, such as “C2C #BlackLivesMatter.”
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Several SGA members participated in the demonstration, including President Mike Brill and Vice President Hayley Clark.
“A goal that Mike and I set aside for this year was to try to make UD’s campus more inclusive,” Clark said. “As my role as student government vice president, I see that I am a representative of the student voice, and that when some members of our community feel threatened, I feel responsible to be here and show my support for them as well.”
“These types of events show that the resolution has a meaningful impact on a lot of students’ lives,” Brill said.
The University of Dayton Student Government Association posted to Facebook on the day of the demonstration, encouraging students to remain open-minded to others’ experiences.
“In light of recent events on campus, especially today, SGA would like to make an announcement regarding the state of our community,” the post said. “There have been differing opinions voiced in person and online regarding race at UD. We would like to remind the student body that we are a community full of different races, religions and opinions. While you may not agree with the viewpoints of your peers, disrespecting them is not an appropriate response.”
The demonstration received further encouragement from the Academic Senate, which adopted a resolution in support of the event.
“The academic senate of the University of Dayton stands in solidarity with students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators who demonstrated on November 12, 2015 on our campus and across the nation,” the resolution, which was sponsored by Leslie Picca, Ph.D., and Andrew Slade, Ph.D., read. “Racism in all its expressions is an injury to all and we must actively work to eradicate apathy, ignorance and all manifestations of systemic oppression … The University’s Catholic identity and Marianist charism urge all of us to walk with the hurt and the dispossessed and to call for justice, to pray for mercy and to hope for the day when the fullness of community is with us.”
The College of Arts and Sciences provided the demonstrators with refreshments.
“This is great,” Jackson said. “We’ve received a lot of support from staff and faculty members. This is more than what I expected.”
Members of the administration, including Vice President for Student Development Bill Fischer and President Dan Curran, attended the demonstration, as well.
“I’m here as a sign of solidarity with the students who are out here and the faculty and staff,” Curran said. “I think the statement they’re making about dignity is very important for the University of Dayton. It’s the heart of our mission.”
“I’m here to stand with our students of color,” said Chris Fishpaw, Associate Director for Student Involvement. “There have been a lot of statements made on social media that are hurtful to our African-American student community. I think that being here today shows all the UD community that students do stand with the students of color, that faculty and staff stand with the students of color, and that we recognize that there are issues we need to come together as one to address.”
“I fully support what the students are doing here,” Fisher said. “We stand in solidarity with our students … this is how you do it the Marianist way.”
Clark agreed that this demonstration was in line with UD’s Marianist principles.
“The Marianist tradition has a long line of social justice and standing in solidarity with members in our community who are facing injustice,” Clark said. “I think to stay true to our identity this is absolutely necessary. [We need to] make the effort to make sure our members of our community are heard and they are being taken care of appropriately.”
“I was really glad to see UD students, faculty and staff come out and support the solidarity that we were participating in,” Smith wrote in an email to Flyer News. “One of the impacts I think that this demonstration had on the campus is getting people talking and critically evaluating the times we live in. Also, showing that students are not going to be silent in the face of tragedy or wrong-doing.”
Smith stood before the protestors with a microphone and encouraged everyone to fight racism.
“I appreciate every person who is here today, standing in solidarity and saying that they support what we are doing and what we are standing for,” Smith told the crowd. “This right here today, this is strength. Today, this is community. Today, this is uplifting. Today, this is speaking out against whatever is wrong. We are strong. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in standing together, no matter what color you are.”
Following her speech, demonstrators linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome.”