Inklings of racial statements were written on the Richland Wall, leaving Ohio University students in a mass uproar.
This past Tuesday, the painting of racial slurs were written over a mural on the Richland Wall. The mural, which symbolized a painting of an African Sahara, was covered with the silhouette of a figure hanging from a tree with the words “Build The Wall” beside the horrific image.
Upon the discovery of the wall’s ruin, students were immediately enraged and went to news and social media outlets to express their frustrations. Sophomore student, Khabonina Beresford, spoke of these frustrations and the feelings the incident inflicted.
“I was disgusted and terrified,” said Beresford. “It makes me skeptical of the people I’m going to school and surrounding myself with. It makes me wonder if I’m safe here.”
Since the incident, students have covered the wall in black with statements “Black Lives Matter” and “Racism Will Not Be Tolerated Here.” Furthermore, organizations like the Black Student Union (BSU) and OU’s National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter took it upon themselves to utilize their platform and address the incident.
According to writer Abbey Marshall of the postathens.com, organizations BSU and NAACP held a meeting to devise a plan of action to negate such situations going forward. Jasmyn Pearl, who’s the vice president of BSU and secretary of NAACP, acknowledged the importance of the meeting and the effects she hoped it would have on the student body.
“The purpose of this meeting was to alert other organizations of what our plan of action is in hopes that they will join us in furthering our requests,” said Pearl.
In the meeting, students and organizations concluded a number of propositions they feel will broaden a more diverse perspective on campus. These propositions included, “an anti-hate speech clause in the student code of conduct, disciplinary measures, a ‘culture of inclusion’ task force, diversity training and cultural competency courses at the university.” Once the sanctions are set, BSU and the NAACP hope that they’ll eliminate racial and discriminatory incidents from occurring in the future.
University officials have yet to comment on the situation, as well as the actions that have taken place since its occurrence. Students have asked these officials to address this issue, particularly OU President Roderick McDavis. McDavis has vocalized his displeasure with the racial climate in the past, and acknowledged the unacceptable actions that have occurred.
Beyond the occasional public statement, however, students are looking for McDavis and others in administrative positions to do more to alleviate this racial divide. OU Student Senate Leader, Priscilla Opoku, spoke about what she expects the university to do following the situation ad others in relation.
“I think President McDavis needs to speak out a lot more and be more hands on in these issues,” said Opoku.
Opoku feels McDavis and others should not only publicize their discomfort, but come together collectively to take further action to eliminate these issues. Potentially, shifting the current racial climate that’s contributed to the divide of the OU community. Opoku continued, expressing her avid faith that the change President McDavis has spoken of in the past will come.
“There will be change,” said Opoku. “We have to keep trying because too many of our ancestors have fought for the opportunities we have today.”
However, to solve these issues of racial divide, Opoku believes there’s a lengthy process to endure. The steps are undetermined she says, but it starts with larger voices speaking out and taking action. Most importantly, Opoku says the Athens community needs leaders to acknowledge the racial climate on campus and to provide solutions to eliminate further discriminatory actions.
Pearl and Opoku believe It’s important for people in administrative positions to instill their influence to help set the structure for this agenda. In turn, they can use their influence to develop propositions to expand ideas of diversity. Ultimately, helping to build a safer and more inclusive environment for OU students and faculty.