Dear President Stenger,
We, like many Black/Brown students who took part in the protests last week, have been waiting with great anticipation for your response to our recent actions. Your letter this past Saturday was encouraging because it acknowledged our right to protest in response to racist statements made by white students on social media against us. That said, we strongly believe more needed to be said by you.
To begin with, your letter disappointingly doesn’t openly condemn the recent decisions to not indict Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo; the white cops who murdered Mike Brown and Eric Garner. By not explicitly doing this, you, unacceptably, took a neutral stance on an issue that has deeply angered Black/Brown people across this country. Even conservatives like Rep. Peter King have given their condolences to the family of Eric Garner and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly openly stated all Americans needed to be deeply troubled by what happened. We believe you as President of BU are capable of going further than them by giving a definitive and decisive declaration that Binghamton University, the premier university of the Northeast, condemned the non-indictments of these officers. Or do you believe the recent decisions were justified?
Furthermore, while your support for our protests against racism is heart-warming, it is heart-breaking to see you stop there. Saying racism shouldn’t happen isn’t enough, what is needed is you making it clear that your administration will deal harshly and uncompromisingly with such racism. Racism at Binghamton is a system that is fueled by historical inequalities, not merely a set of posts on yik yak. The first amendment right of racist students in no way supersedes our human rights to learn and study peacefully as Black/Brown folk on this campus. Their actions show how normalized racist attitudes have become and one of the many changes we would like to see to combat this is the creation of a required GenEd course on race and social awareness to help educate students on stereotypes and racial stigmas. Another important issue that needs to be aggressively pushed by your administration is to significantly increase the 16.6% Black, Latino, and First Peoples presence on campus. We represent roughly 50% of the people in NY State so these numbers show how underrepresented at SUNY-Binghamton we are and this must be addressed, now.
In conclusion, your letter was a positive start to what we hope is a longer conversation on how to bring about change on this campus. Your response indicates how powerful we Black/Brown students are when we combine forces to take an active stand against racism or any form of social injustice. But it will not stop here. Last week’s protests were just the beginning of the students of BU taking charge of OUR University; this is a call to action and whether you pick up or not, we will succeed in making the changes needed to make this campus a better place for all.
Toivo Asheeke, 3rd Year, Sociology PhD Program
Lativia Perkins, Junior, Political Science
Jesus Raul Cepin, Sophomore, Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies Program