The Meredith Anti-Racism Effort, Part 1: BSU's Role
On June 2, President Jo Allen announced a college-wide conversation on race and personally invited Meredith’s Black Student Union (BSU) to discuss issues on campus. A final four-step plan for the anti-racism initiative was released to the student body on July 21 and the climate survey is currently active on campus. The student body has been told pieces of what the anti-racism initiative will look like on campus, but there is more to uncover. This article will cover the role BSU had during the summer conversations and the role they currently play.
President Allen sent a message to the student body on June 1, giving an update on the struggles of the pandemic and the community we had created from afar. What the message didn’t include was anything about the tragic death of George Floyd and the protests that were happening globally. Korey Barringer, ‘21 and Vice President of BSU, stated that when Jo Allen’s email came out, “It was a slap in the face.” She went on to say, “There was no acknowledgement. I remember when the Charlottesville incident happened, there was an outpouring of ‘oh this is so sad;’” which wasn’t the case this time. In response, Barringer and BSU’s President, Tyler Pharr, ‘21, drafted a message on their Instagram — which gained a lot of attention. “BSU [came] more into the limelight because people read that message. They were shocked because they don’t get — especially alums — the messages she sends. They were shocked that she didn’t say anything,” stated Pharr. The following day, President Allen made a statement about George Floyd and invited BSU to speak with her
Following the invitation, Zoom meetings were held with administration and eventually President Allen. With the help of BSU’s advisor, Assistant Dean Tomecca Sloane, a document of experiences, demands and suggestions were formed (which can also be found on their Instagram). “[Jo Allen] was shocked at how traumatic these experiences were for people, she was really taken back. She would sit up in her seat shocked. It was kind of bitter sweet as we’re here telling her this; she kind of should’ve known because we are her students,” Pharr said. This is a trend that Barringer and Pharr have observed when talking about race on campus, especially with white students. When asked why it was so hard for white students to fathom discrimination on campus, Barringer said, “Because they don’t care.”
Currently, BSU is no longer working on the anti-racism initiative. Pharr stated that “they took out ideas and basically fired us, shut the door right behind us...This is what they’re going to present to their donors.” When reading the four-step action plan, Barringer and Pharr said that the work of research was already done by them this summer. “You’ve already [drawn] on the diverse communities. Ms. Tomecca [and] Dr. Battle, when she was here, [have] been telling you since they came and you’ve been ignoring them. But now that it’s this national buzz, you want to change something and draw on something that we’ve been telling you for years. Stop it, it’s annoying.”
Barringer agreed with Pharr. She further explained that if they really care about doing the work, things can change on campus. However, tangible change is something that is needed — beyond simply changing the names of buildings.
By Jeanine Carryl, Staff Writer