By Briiya Smith
This past Friday on November 20, 2015, a discussion on the basis of race and inclusion continued inside Mcdonel Hall’s Kiva. “Let’s Talk About It” was the second part of the previous week’s demonstration events, and a discussion held between concerned students/affiliates of Michigan State University, and the institution’s president Lou Anna K. Simon.
From that came a twelve- page memorandum posted by President Simon on November 19th, which consisted of a plan for action against the cultural insensitivity ingrained in campus mores; and President Simon’s verbal dedication to be in attendance of Friday’s continuation of the cultural discussion.
Among an array of enraged, passionate faculty members and students who approached one of the two open microphones to voice their concerns, who sat on the edge of McDonel Kiva’s seats, and who aligned the walls of the filled room, President of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, Mya Jones gave another perspective to accompany the evening’s most popular question: “Why isn’t President Simon here when she gave her word that she would be”?
While Jones couldn’t help but to demand answers on where the president was from administration members who were in attendance, she added a calmer comment that juxtaposed an intensity that lasted the entire discussion.
The student leader proposed for the audience to appreciate Dr. Terrence Frazier, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Services, who stood with mic in hand to take the heat in lieu of the absentee president.
Those who followed her in expressing their concerns and inquisitions did not oblige Myya Jones’ proposal. They demanded answers. Many returned to their seats or standing spots in the room unsatisfied, as Dr. Frazier’s remained quick and repeated more often than not, and as Vice President Maybank’s references to the incomplete memorandum (the few times she offered answers) weren’t good enough.
“Thank you,” was a repeated interruptive response from Dr. Frazier to minority students’, “[Simon] needs to come to the appointments that she said she would be at because that’d make people trust her more right there,” and “When I’m telling [campus law enforcement] my issues and they’re not responding other than with a laugh, and a smile, and a smirk…how am I supposed to assume that they’re going to ensure my safety especially when they’re policing my community; especially my community specifically because of the [prejudice] students that live in that community?…What’s being done [by administration] to address that?”
Sighs, gasps, and direct statements of disapproval of the president’s memorandum were also dominant tones in the fiery discussion. Many dismissed the action plan out of disbelief that action will be taken at all by the university.
Student Steve Cleaves gave his thoughts on the event saying quote: “I just feel like it was unfair to the students of MSU, to be told directly by President Simon that she was going to be there and for her to not show. Then sent the leadership of student affairs who happened to be people of color and I just feel like she created a space, where we was unable to effectively address the problems and it signals to me that the University is not taking our pain seriously.”
Freshman, Aysa Hubbard, pointed out the fact that there was no denying that the discussion was powerful, making her more aware of the university’s cultural issues.“It might change what happens to those people who make racial statements towards others”says Hubbard.
Yet, many left Friday’s “Let’s Talk About It” unconvinced by those with true power to make a change. Going forward, what evidence of administration’s action is there for the minority population of Spartans, and those of the majority who stand with us, to believe in?