Hilltop Views

OURVIEW: Administration fails to adequately address concerns of students of color

Andrea Guzman and Lauren Sanchez

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Each week the editorial board reflects on a current issue in Our View. The position taken does not reflect the opinions of everyone on the Hilltop Views staff. This week’s editorial board is composed of Multimedia Editor Andrea Guzman and Viewpoints Editor Lauren Sanchez.

St. Edward’s has fallen short on multiple opportunities this academic year to fulfill its mission of “educating hearts and minds”  in relation to race issues both nationwide and on campus.

On a national level, both the rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia and President Trump’s “sh*thole” countries comment struck a chord with people across the U.S. our students being no exception.

Meanwhile, our campus has faced personal jabs, as with Trump’s decision back in September of 2017 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Universities quickly responded to comfort their DACA students.

The President of the University of Texas at Austin, Gregory Fenves, sent an email minutes after. St. Edward’s President George E. Martin sent a similar email two days later.

And in light of a Bon Appétit chef’s allegation that a manager used a racial slur in reference to the African Student Organization, the racial tolerance of one of our outside contractors has been called into question.

Associate Vice President for Business Services Cynthia Johnson provided our news editor with some context on the investigation. Johnson noted that the investigation had closed and that outside employees are expected to fulfill university standards that do not tolerate harassment or discrimination. She added that, “Bon Appétit continues to be a good business partner for the university and has been transparent and thorough in their investigation of this matter.”

After an instance of prejudice hits our students, it’s not conducive to their healing to hear that the party who caused the harm is a “good business partner.” There is a pattern of the university either ignoring or insufficiently responding to issues surrounding race that affect our students and community as a whole.

Former Hilltop Views News Editor Neta Bomani wrote a commentary in our 2016 special issue on Let’s Talk Race that reasons that administration would be more in tune with student’s needs regarding race issues if they themselves were more diverse. At one point, Bomani notes that “when it comes to issues of race, the university tends to not speak up. I too, am a black student who wishes the university would enter a conversation in which I have been thrust into my entire life.”

It will take time before this university sees turnover within administration and the potential for more diversity is open. In the meantime, we propose there should be a point person who handles race-related issues to avoid situations that bring about a bystander effect mentality in an administration whose responsibility is it to address the students concerns regarding race.

We need someone to take on the task of reminding students of the resources they have on campus when a Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Michael Brown and any other cases arise. We need someone to respond to issues that arise on our very own campus; someone who is eager to help the ASO host a panel for people of color.

Just because Johnson served as a source for our published article does not mean she has to be the sole person with a leadership position at St. Edward’s to comment on the incident. It’s not entirely clear why other leadership, whose job is in any way connected to student well-being, cannot provide a more understanding and sympathetic reaction to this incident.

Ultimately, there needs to be someone with a leadership position at this institution to fill that void. Even though President George Martin enacted an advisory council for a respectful, inclusive community last year, it is simply not enough in regard to race. Neither is Student Life’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion because, even with as much support and advocacy education as they offer, they have to account for a broad number of student identities and can’t always reach the entire student body. There should still exist some sort of position or entity on this campus that addresses the issue of race specifically.

There are people with a leadership position regarding any issue on campus in which they devote concerted care and response to students’ needs on that issue. Vice President for Student Affairs Lisa Kirkpatrick, for example, dedicates much of her time to ensuring students understand Title IX and the on-campus resources they can access in times of need.

Jena Parro, assistant director of recreation and wellness, has given stellar presentations on wellness and self-care. The Health and Counseling Center hires peer support and offers visits for those seeking support for their mental health. In addition, James Puglisi, associate director of campus ministry, helps students have a space to practice their faith traditions.

There needs to be somebody on this campus students of color can turn to in times of need, much like this one. As a university that prides itself on its diversity, administration needs to take steps towards maintaining a healthy and safe environment for its diverse students.

Since there is a point person on campus for nearly any issue or topic you could imagine, we are left wondering why leadership doesn’t respond to issues surrounding race. We don’t want to be left guessing if the university’s weak stance on Bon Appetit is because they don’t want to strain their relationship with our food service provider or if they are simply tone deaf to student’s justified grievances on this matter.  

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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University
OURVIEW: Administration fails to adequately address concerns of students of color