Issues of race on campus need concrete solution

On April 27, 1962, the university’s board of trustees made the decision to end racial segregation at Wake Forest and to integrate the campus. Ours was the first of the South’s major private universities to do so.

While great strides have been made in progressing the ideals of diversity and inclusion, integration was not a singular event in 1962, but instead became a process that continues to this day.

With less than eight percent of the student body being comprised of African Americans that are not student athletes, the road to equality remains uphill. The past month has seen tensions along racial lines increase in the wake of a number of events.

The Sept. 11 edition of the Old Gold & Black featured an article on the university’s bias incident report system and the implications it has had on a community that can be unwittingly complicit to racial insensitivity and cultural appropriation. An article on the use of social media to both facilitate and hamper an open discussion on this and other issues was also featured in last week’s edition of the newspaper.

A bias incident report was filed due to perceived racial insensitivity of a fraternity theme party. A dialogue featuring students from across campus lines has since been held by the Arch Society on Sept. 15 to discuss this and other issues related to the topic.

President Nathan Hatch, Vice President for Campus Life Penny Rue, Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Barbee Oakes and Student Body President Margaret Mulkerin each sent open letters regarding the recent developments to Wake Forest email accounts.

Some, however, feel that the administration is not doing enough to address these issues in a concrete, effective and lasting manner. Moreover, students who have felt the brunt of the marginalization that occurs on our campus would like for students to be held accountable for their explicit and implicit forms of prejudice, whether it be anonymous or not. Finally, while there has recently been greater emphasis placed on the tensions between black and white students, all minorities and marginalized groups on campus should be equally regarded in the discussions and movements that are occurring here.

From the dialogue that occurred during the Arch Society meeting, it is clear that while students on all sides of the tension agree that changes should occur, the exact means to attain a more progressive, inclusive and culturally-aware campus are less obvious. What we do believe and what we believe most students believe is that, regardless of whatever new policies administration enacts on our campus, change will only come from within the student body.

In order to achieve the holistic education that the university espouses, Wake Forest students should make the effort to learn from one another. An entire cultural shift needs to occur, and this could take years.

Accountability at all levels is instrumental in promoting the ideals of diversity and inclusion, but nothing worthwhile occurs overnight. Whether through student-run campaigns on the quad or anonymous attacks on social media, students should not resort to hearsay and ad hominen attacks in order to get their points across.

Instead, collaboration between typically polarized student organizations on campus — especially racially polarized groups — should be embraced, as it can facilitate the mutual understanding and education that can help our campus reach a new and welcomed level of inclusion, racial tolerance and sensitivity.

The issue of race on campus is multifaceted and underscores issues of economic diversity, international presence on campus and a greater shift in campus culture. Discussions on these topics are never easy, but they must be broached if we hope to achieve true inclusion with equanimity. We hope that the administration will implement policies and programs that are both effective and supported by the student body and that these strategies will be properly communicated to the study body and faculty.

The Old Gold & Black will actively contribute to campus discourse in regard to addressing these and other issues on campus. Tensions between the white majority and racial and ethnic minorities, inclusion in Greek life, a quickly growing international student body, diversity in religion and the actions and student response to the police department are all topics that are pertinent and misunderstood by large portions of the campus community. Each of these issues deserves individual attention, as a “one size fits all” solution is not viable.

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Copyright 2017