It’s April 2016, and you still probably don’t think racism exists at the University of St. Thomas.
Starting with a protest of USG in November, a strong contingent of students of color have continued to voice their frustration with the campus’ racial climate.
Since the protest, the formation of the Students of Color: Claim Our Seat (SOCCOS) movement has occurred. SOCCOS published a document of policy recommendations regarding the diversity and inclusiveness of St. Thomas’ campus climate two days after the protest.
Since then, the document has reached the desks of many administrators, faculty, and staff, including President Sullivan, Provost Richard Plumb, and members of the Anti-Racism Coalition. The coalition, formed by students, staff, and faculty aligned with the SOCCOS movement, published an open letter earlier this month drawing attention to persistent issues of inclusiveness and racial injustice on campus. The letter was met with a thorough response from President Sullivan herself.
In the letter, Sullivan highlights the work of the ‘Embracing our Differences as One Human Family’ task force of the Strategic Planning Committee. Sullivan addressed the urgent requests of the coalition to invest more into creating or developing inclusive space, equity training, and educational efforts.
Movement at the administrative level has not slowed down the need of students to continue voicing their concerns. Students both affiliated and unaffiliated with SOCCOS have been participating in the Anti-Racism Campaign for Tommies! (ACT!) in the past several weeks. The campaign captures the issues facing some students of color on campus through a photo series and video.
Many of the students featured in the ACT! campaign want to express that racism happens in ways that aren’t violent or individualized. The students share about their experiences with stereotyping, microaggressions, and being misrepresented among other issues.
Freesia Towle, graduate assistant at SDIS, is leading the charge in developing the campaign. She aims to make the ACT! campaign a platform for students to leverage their voices to facilitate racial justice dialogue and anti-racist mobilization in the St. Thomas community.
Towle describes the ACT! campaign as, “A multimedia platform for students to address their concerns in response to national and local racial justice issues.”
“It’s critical that students of all racial-ethnic identities have informal and formal opportunities to exchange personal narratives of either witnessing or experiencing racism. ACT! asserts the need to talk about how social constructions of race and the deeply harmful impact of racism permeates our St. Thomas community,” Towle says.
The photo series has been launched today, with banners hanging over the ASC Atrium from the second floor. The video is set to premiere on the digital ad screen on the first floor of ASC Tuesday, May 3. The video will be displayed on repeat between 11:30 a.m and 1 p.m on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 4. Be on the lookout!
Students hope the ACT! campaign garners serious attention to the concerns of some of St. Thomas’ students of color. The ACT! campaign also aims to change the way the St. Thomas community thinks about racism and racial injustice.
Take time during the end of this semester to think outside of yourself. Hopefully, stories from the ACT! campaign help you see racial injustices affect more than just direct victims of it.