Students Address Racism Through Social Media
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has sparked calls for change across the country over the course of the summer. For college campuses, one of the many ways racism is being highlighted is through social media. One example is the Meredith Black Student Union’s Instagram account, @meredithbsu. Its members have utilized their platform to discuss with Dr. Allen ways that Meredith can promote action and accountability for the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community.
An additional platform started through an Instagram account called @DearPWI, its purpose being to address predominately white institutions. Following the example of this account, many colleges across the nation now have their own campus-specific accounts for BIPOC students and staff to anonymously highlight their experiences with racism. The @DearMereCo Instagram account gives BIPOC students, alumnae and faculty affiliated with Meredith a place to submit racist experiences they have had on campus. These submissions can be submitted anonymously through direct message. The @DearMereCo account owner hopes that this platform can be used to eliminate the white complicity and privilege that exists on campus, and subsequently create long-term change to ensure that the BIPOC community feels welcomed and valued at Meredith.
“The silence that faculty and student leadership has exhibited reflects the complicit nature of our campus,” the @DearMereCo owner said. “They have turned a blind eye to things for too long, and it’s time they recognize the impact of their inaction.”
The @DearMereCo owner also acknowledged the power that the public nature of the account has, as well as the importance of anonymity. Anonymity can make members of the BIPOC community feel like they can share their experiences without the fear of backlash.
“So many of them fear coming forward because of possible backlash from other students or indirect shaming by faculty,” according to @DearMereCo. “This public platform amplifies their stories so that white faculty, students and alums have to listen to their stories for reflection rather than deflective ammunition.”
At this time, @DearMereCo has posted about 50 submissions, a number which is rapidly increasing, usually by three posts per day. Approximately 75% of these submissions have been from BIPOC Meredith students, and the remaining number were sent in by Meredith alumnae. One student who has submitted three of her experiences to @DearMereCo is Class of 2023 member Charlie Hatch. She says that her personal experiences combined with Meredith’s lack of initiative to protect and include the BIPOC community have led her to consider transferring to a different university.
“I’m tired of [Meredith] getting away with their inclusive marketing but treating their students and faculty of color like crap and ignoring them,” Hatch says. “It angers me that the college protects the students who make others feel unsafe....I want to see [Meredith] actually protect students of color.” When asked about specific changes that Meredith’s BIPOC community wants to see the college’s administration and student leaders make, Charlie advocated for discussion sessions about “microaggressions and blatant racism” similar to the discussions Meredith students have regularly about “alcohol and domestic violence.”
These submissions have covered facets of racism on Meredith’s campus such as racial instances and microaggressions in the classroom setting, incidents which occurred in the residence halls, as well as blatant acts of racism by student leaders. Several of these posts specifically cited students who serve or have served as the Class of 2022’s and 2023’s Cornhuskin’ Co-Chairs. These posts caused conversations among many Meredith students and alumnae alike, and many are advocating that student leaders should be selected in a different, more intentional manner.
Class of 2023 President Denise Bahena-Bustos, along with her Executive Board, has been discussing alternative vetting processes for student leaders with the Office of Student Leadership and Service (SLS) in response to posts about past Cornhuskin’ Co-Chairs. According to Bahena-Bustos, SLS has used “Honor Council and GPA requirements” to determine students’ ability to hold leadership positions on campus. From personal experience, she says that appointing student leaders based on video interviews rather than resumes allows interviewers to avoid the name recognition and biases that can sometimes accompany resumes. Using this strategy to appoint student leaders is just one way that Bahena-Bustos hopes to promote diversity and inclusivity in the Class of 2023 and across campus.
Bahena-Bustos also wants to work with campus organizations like Meredith’s Black Student Union, the Meredith International Association and Angeles Latinas in addition to hosting class meetings so she can learn what she can do to support her BIPOC classmates. “We need to start having those uncomfortable conversations...because they are so needed. Everyone does not have the same experience at Meredith,” Bahena-Bustos says.
Bahena-Bustos is having ongoing conversations with SLS and reviewing the office’s Code of Ethics to develop a detailed course of action in response to reported racist behavior.
Class of 2022 President Kiley Van Ryn, alongside her Executive Board, is committed to utilizing her role on campus to promote inclusivity. She did not provide a comment to The Herald, but sent out an email to her class on July 5.
“Each of us is dedicated to making a conscious effort at centering our focus on fostering and maintaining a safe, welcoming environment for all students. We recognize that all students deserve to feel valued, appreciated, welcome, and included at Meredith College,” Van Ryn said in her email. “We are committed to ensuring this within the Class of 2022 and throughout the campus community.”
Class of 2021 President Lindsey Lewis says the submissions made to @DearMereCo from members of her class mainly focus on issues with “certain professors in classes” and not with individuals within the Class of 2021’s current or past Executive Board. She would “love for all of the Class Presidents and/or the executive leadership of each class to meet” so everyone’s concerns can be heard. Lewis states that she and her Executive Board have “a zero tolerance policy for racism” in the Class of 2021, and they plan to address concerns on campus this fall semester. Lewis says, “I think [people’s] voices need to be heard, and they will be heard.”
By Molly Perry and Hannah Porter, Staff Writers