Protest for racial justice on campus
Eric Clinton, with his hand raised, marching with students from Buley Library to West Campus.
Josh LaBella – News Editor
In response to two separate incidents where racial slurs were used in the classroom, students, faculty, and staff protested for equality and solidarity at Southern Connecticut State University.
Eric Clinton, senior and President of the Black Student Union (BSU), said during the protest those in attendance would walk to West Campus and back to the Buley Library. He said the overall theme for the event was “If it happened to you, it happened to me too” and invited students to share their experiences.
Tatyana Andre, a student who was in a journalism class where Professor Jerry Dunklee used the “n” word in a discussion about the incident from a week before, said while she understands the professor has the first amendment right to use the word in class she thinks it is immoral to do so.
“Once a student is uncomfortable, then you shouldn’t say the word,” said Andre. “I know that we are in a politically insensitive time right now and I’m really glad we are all here right now marching. I just want to recognize this is more than just us. This is about what’s going on in the world, what’s going to happen to our children, our grandchildren, what happened to our parents, our grandparents.”
History Professor Carter-David, co-advisor to the BSU, said the black faculty has had discussions on the issues in the past week and are paying attention. She said they know the particular needs that black students have in this country and the problems they face.
“We do not think it is right that you would pay for the privilege of being insulted in class,” said Carter-David. “You come here to learn and to be respected. And we have your backs 100 percent.”
The protesters then started their march, chanting, “No Justice. No Peace.” When they returned, a number of students and faculty stepped forward to speak. Daphney Alston, assistant director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Development, said it is white peoples turn to take action.
“You need to do something now,” said Alston. “You need to come into our spaces. You need to join our conversations. You don’t need to be a spectator anymore. Your voices are powerful. Help us. Help our faculty. Help our staff. Help our students.”
Alston said it is okay to fail or to say the wrong thing but it is wrong to not do anything or to be afraid. She said Southern students of color have been afraid long enough and white people on campus need to join and support them because it is their turn.
Robert Heron, a senior marketing major, thanked everyone for coming to the protest and supporting their struggle against oppression. He said he supports and loves his “brothers and sisters” and wants them to know they are not alone. He asked everyone not to be hesitant or scared.
“Although your suggestions may fail or they may succeed,” said Heron, “that’s not the point. The point is to inspire each other and the youth to continue the movement and the change.”
Heron said the people there may inspire the change and they should not forget that. He said they should not hesitate to help, make suggestions or share thoughts because they may miss the opportunity.
Julie Gagliardi, President of the Student Government Association (SGA), said on behalf of SGA, they hear the students of color on campus and are working to figure out what they can do. She said she encourages the staff and faculty on campus to take part because the students need their help and want their support.
“With that being, (We need to make sure) that white people on this campus are doing their part,” said Gagliardi. “That we are helping are students feel comfortable, because what’s the point of a university having students if they are not comfortable and are not learning.”
Another student who spoke was Justin Farmer, a political science major and Hamden city councilman. He said it is very obvious that people of color are not in many positions of power.
“We know that,” said Farmer. “We know that from last year with this past election. We realize that we are going to have to have those conversations. But we also need to be very intentional with that work.”
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana