BY TAYLOR RAMIREZ, OPINION EDITOR & JALEN STUBBS, SPORTS EDITOR
This September, the Black African Heritage and Caribbean Coalition (BLACC) initiated the “We Demand Action” campaign in response to a Mason Students for Life group that displayed a disturbing image of an African man in chains on a poster. The Students for Life group claimed they were conducting “pro-life outreach” yet others were offended by their comparison of slavery and abortion.
Following this incident, statements were released on social media from both BLACC and Students For Life. These statements triggered a visceral reaction from students engaging in heated dialogue on social media.
Senior Solomon Fair shared his thoughts on the hypocrisy of Mason’s principles when it comes to advocacy. He believes that Mason students aren’t being educated appropriately about how to deal with racial discrimination.
“How are you gonna use our history and people for an issue that has nothing to do with the issue you’re advocating for? Now when I want to go to the dining hall I have to face that and look at my people in chains.”
In the following weeks, BLACC also released a We Demand Action video, summarizing the recent events, calling for support from the Mason community and action from administration. These demands consisted of increased protection, meetings with senior administration, and necessary change.
Several weeks later, student leaders from several organizations had the opportunity to voice their concerns to university administration but still have yet to receive an adequate response, due mostly to what they feel is the administration’s lack of willingness to cooperate.
Students were hopeful that as Mason’s first African American President, Dr. Gregory Washington would advocate for students of color. Fair explains that there has been a pattern of leadership that lacks the capacity to take action for these issues.
“That’s not really been the case” said Fair. “There was hesitation on how to handle things because we’ve seen the same cycle where each year the Black student population is sending in leadership to talk to administration about issues we are facing or lack of support and seeing very little change.”
Despite making history and serving as a hopeful figure of representation, many feel that President Washington’s actions thus far have not proven him to be an ally to minority communities at Mason.
Senior Emond Dash questioned the lack of action from university administration following the events in the fall.
“I mean did you see any statement made by the president? Did you see anyone from the administrative core say anything about the Students For Life situation? Did anything get posted on the George Mason Twitter or Instagram? Was there a mass email that was pushed out? No.”
Dash emphasized that presence and visibility are extremely important.
“Even if they are having conversations amongst each other, that’s cool but that’s not what we asked for. We asked for actual action, we want things to actually happen and for this not to continue after we graduate.”
Not only has there been a lack of response throughout the school year, but the recent announcement of Governor Glenn Youngkin as the spring 2023 commencement speaker left students feeling even more betrayed by administration.
Despite the fact that Governor Youngkin has a reputation for racist policies and insensitive language, President Washington defended the decision to invite him to speak.
Many students feel that Youngkin is a direct threat to marginalized groups and have taken action to oppose the administration’s decision. BLACC organized a protest on campus in hopes of sending a message to the board of visitors that Governor Youngkin is not welcome at Mason.
President Washington was seemingly unphased by this display and encouraged students’ right to protest even if against a decision of his.
The decision about the spring commencement has not changed and university administration has once again disappointed and ignored the requests of diverse student groups. “It doesn’t really add to this idea of inclusion, diversity and equity, the administration isn’t living by what you put out through your advertisements,” said Dash.
Advocacy issues such as this have been a constant at Mason. Students and staff who have been taking action and facilitating resources to spread the message should be recognized. In order for Mason to stand by their belief in diversity, the actions of those trying to make change should no longer be ignored.
“If we talk about Mason being such a diverse place and Mason being such a game changer within society, shouldn’t we be the model school and be setting the standard for other schools on diversity like we claim to be doing?” said Fair.