#BlackAtLMU holds second town hall, students push for more transparency from administrators

Saturday, October 3, 2020

#BlackAtLMU holds second town hall, students push for more transparency from administrators

By Simone Soublet

On Thursday, President Timothy Law Snyder, university leaders, and #BlackAtLMU members held its second Town Hall—an open forum for Black students to discuss the university’s response to their demands. 

Over 100 students, faculty, and staff were in attendance to speak freely and ask questions regarding Black student demands. This comes after the University’s initial letter and follow-up response to #BlackAtLMU’s proposal detailing their demands. In these letters, the University also responded to some of the demands put forth by LMU’s Black Faculty and Staff Alliance (BFSA) but they were not addressed at this meeting. 

#BlackAtLMU leaders Alexa Walls, Amaya Lorick, Christian Jackson, Dezmin Hemmans, and Lauren Morrison have been leading the community in these open forums to address how frustrated and outraged they felt after their demands weren’t met in LMU’s first response to their 16-page proposal

In President Snyder’s opening statement, he said, “One goal I have this evening—and I really hope that one outcome of this is that you will see this as genuine—is that we can develop a strong, collaborative, trusting relationship.” 

The first item on the agenda was, “What would you like leadership to know about your experience at LMU?” Students voiced a variety of concerns ranging from financial aid and the lack of financial resources for the Black students to their educational experience in regards to the lack of Black faculty, staff, and therapists. 

First-year student Monet Thompson voiced how she observed the lack of education about race and about social justice within her white peers and professors and suggested solutions. 

“[I]n the orientation module that talks about identity, there should be a section dedicated to race because there are a lot of students of different races at LMU,” Thompson said. “I feel like at this point in time, with how much information and how easy it is to get information on the internet, it feels like a very woeful ignorance and a total lack of empathy.” 

Thompson also explained that, “[f]or a lot of Black freshmen, like me, it can feel disheartening when you constantly have to be a spokesperson for all Black people.”  

Junior and #BlackAtLMU leader Amaya Lorick expressed concern over the lack of seriousness she witnessed when she expressed interest in an all-Black dorm to Judicial Affairs, which is now the Office of Student Conduct & Community Responsibility (OSCCR)

This idea stemmed from an experience in Lorick’s first year at LMU where a white resident allegedly said the n-word in her floor’s group chat. 

“Rosecrans is typically a predominantly white residence hall, and it’s mostly male,” she explained. “Since it was mostly white students, there was no way for my roommate and I to feel supported as Black women.”

Lorick also explained that she told former Office of Black Student Services (OBSS) director Dr. Nathan Sessoms about the incident, but Judicial Affairs didn’t take the report seriously. 

“[T]hey ended up making an excuse for the student who said the n-word,” Lorick said. “Unfortunately, the woman I was talking to was a Black woman and here I am thinking I’ll finally be understood and comforted. [But] I never felt comfortable in Rosecrans after that.”

Black alumni were also in attendance and spoke to the historical gap in the understanding of intersectionality between Black students and white professors. 

Alumnus Steven Fuller (‘10) expressed feeling disconnected from the community and that Town Halls like this one have been his opportunity to get himself involved and be a representative for the graduate students. 

“The hoops that we have to run into in order to connect with the Black community and to organize ourselves together, I hope moving forward that we can get faculty and staff to advertise Town Halls like this and get the word out about the need to recruit more Black students to make the Black community on LMU’s campus stronger,” he said.

As the open forum shifted focus to the list of demands and LMU’s response, various students shared their thoughts about how LMU should have created a concrete timeline of these demands from the beginning. They expressed how each demand should have been acknowledged, broken down proactively, and given a publically available deadline and response team.

Students also brought up LMU’s Public Safety department as a concern. President Snyder explained that the university is currently looking for a new Public Safety chief and has invited students to be part of that search process within a newly-established Public Safety Advisory Committee. 

Snyder also explained that the administration was also working on building anti-racism into the curriculum university-wide and being transparent about their financial matters.

The forum ended with updates on #BlackAtLMU’s demand to make The Bird’s Nest a safe space for Black students. Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Lane Bove said that the process of fulfilling this demand is underway. The goal, she explained, is to have the Bird’s Nest renovated and ready by Spring 2021, should it be safe for students to return to campus. 

According to Hemmans, another Town Hall regarding BlackAtLMU’s demands will be held sometime in late November.

Post a Comment