Editorial: Black Lives Matter

IMG_0171​Vidhi Patel​/THE REVIEW
​ From the Oakland, NJ protest.​

Over the last couple of weeks, the country’s mood has quickly shifted from sadness to anger. During the semester, students went through what was considered a harsh adjustment to social distancing. Professors had an even harder responsibility of moving classes online, and some of them homeschooled their children while doing so. These experiences that everyone thought were rough seem like nothing compared to what is on their minds now.

The viral killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, two of these by police and all of them allegedly racially-motivated, have brought a level of unrest that many of us have not seen in our lifetime. It has reached a point, where people are no longer asking for police reform, criminal justice reform and so on. They are demanding it.

The university’s response to the killings, protests and violence has been lukewarm, receiving harsh criticism from its students throughout various social media platforms. President Assanis sent two emails on the subject, both of which included somewhat vague and evasive language. The emails first spoke about “our institutional values of diversity” and disavowed violence and racism. However, the first email did not address any specific solutions or plans to resolve the issues of systemic racism. To make matters worse, President Assanis also misspelled Ahmaud Arbery’s name as “Ahmad Aubrey,” a surprising yet significant blunder on the university president’s part. The second came this past week, and while it offered steps to making the university more diverse and inclusive, it felt like the same cookiecutter assertions that people are accustomed to hearing from a PR statement about diversity.

The Review requests three things from Assanis. First, an apology for misspelling Arbery’s name is in order. Second, the university should be explicit in saying that black lives matter, with no “but…” following it. Third, the university should be transparent and forthright about our own shameful history with race relations. Specifically, the university was one of many schools forcibly integrated by the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and they should acknowledge this when speaking about diversity.

The rest of the Blue Hen community is not exempt from addressing current events either. Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) from the Student Government Association to the College Republicans to the Swing Club have made statements on the subject. Even though the summer has just begun, and we are restoring stamina after two weeks of finals, there is no excuse for RSOs to ignore this.

Professors also have the right and responsibility to speak out against the university if they feel that the administration could do better. As of today, The Psychological & Brain Sciences Faculty released their own statement condemning police brutality in the treatment of Black and African-American individuals. Faculty members have released statement on various other issues in the past, such as the Department of Women and Gender Studies, who released a statement in 2016 after Milo Yiannopolous’s controversial speech at Mitchell Hall.

Many university students have been speaking up by submitting their stories to an anonymous Instagram page, “speakup_delaware.” As of June 11, the page now touts over 170 anonymously-shared stories from members of the university community, compiling stories of how the university has consistently been failing its BIPOC — black, indigenous, people of color — students.

The page has shared the experiences of students across several groups: BIPOC, LGBTQ+, students who felt wronged by the university’s counseling center, students with disabilities, students who have survived sexual abuse or misconduct and even allies offering their support for those who have felt silenced by the university in a variety of ways. The page has also shared and compiled resources for struggling students, information for allies and support for survivors.

Furthermore, the creators of the page took the initiative for reform. They created a Google Doc to compile ideas from the community on how to make diversity-based classes more effective, as well as suggestions to the administration on how to rectify the lack of support for its minority students.The document also contains a proposal for including a mandatory racial-awareness class for students, a direct counter to the university’s glaring lack of action so far, aside from the aforementioned PR letters.

Finally, with everything happening, university students are sharing their experiences of being racially profiled by officers by University of Delaware Police Department (UDPD) officers. The Review wants to know that we can trust the UDPD in a time when other departments around the country are allowing their officers to commit acts of violence against the citizens of their communities. They released a statement on Friday condemning these actions but said nothing to address the accounts of their own racial profiling. Along with a statement that does so, we also feel that the UDPD can make systemic changes in their department by hiring more officers of color. According to their 2020 employee demographics, only 16% of their 81 members are people of color, which is a 7% drop from 2016.

The UDPD is not to be confused with the Newark Police Department, which released a statement Tuesday afternoon that spoke out against brutality while addressing several common questions they received from the area’s residents.

The Review asks students, administrators and officers to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We ask that President Assanis set an example for the university community by being more transparent and developing specific plans to correct past issues of systemic racism in the university community, as opposed to using general statements such as “we need to act now.” We additionally ask that other university members, such as students and the local police, take the initiative to correct any wrongs that they may see in the local community. This is a great opportunity for new solutions in this country to take hold. Stay safe and be kind to one another.

The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by John Cassidy, opinion editor. He may be reached at jjcass@udel.edu.

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