Dear Binghamton University community,
Last night, Students for Change walked out of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s (ODEI) Town Hall Forum to address the demands our organization delivered to the administration in December. What we thought would be a panel discussion was in fact a series of discussions in small groups. This meeting displayed several problems from its inception; there were armed police present, and we were ignored and scolded when we asked to change the format of the meeting. Before the meeting, we emailed the ODEI and several other administrators that we would not participate in a discussion held in this format and we received the dismissive non-answer, “See you at the meeting tomorrow.” Upon entering the room, we hoped that we would be recognized as a group, Students For Change, with shared concerns that we have been working on together in hopes of creating concrete, accountable and public responses to racism and access to an inclusive and safe educational environment on Binghamton University’s campus. Instead of accommodation, what we received was an unwillingness to do something as simple as gather administrative officials to the front of the room so that everyone could hear what was being said at once. As a result, we found that the only option was to leave the meeting.
The expectation was that students would go to each table and speak to a member of the ODEI who would address a specific group of demands that were given to them by students. Dividing the administrators and the students guarantees that there can be no public accountability for what other administrators say at any given moment. At the end of the day, it is not the job of the students to condense information given to us. Going from table to table asking questions and corroborating information is not efficient and is not the duty of the students. But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we will not be separated. We reject any meeting type that separates or divides us in any way.
Furthermore, we felt that the tone taken with us was inappropriate and paternalistic. In response to our request, an administrator referred to us as “rude” and “disrespectful.” The language used by the ODEI implied that by hosting this meeting, they were doing the student body a generous favor and that we should be grateful that they took the time to meet with us. The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is meant to serve the students of Binghamton University. The staff and administrators of the ODEI are paid to advocate diversity, equity and inclusion. It is regrettable that because of an unwillingness to ask four people to switch seats, no productive discussion could take place.
Lastly, we were told President Harvey Stenger would attend to address our concerns directly, but he never showed up, and we felt intentionally misled. The administration continues to ask us to trust them, but betrays that trust at every opportunity to build it.
We were told, “If you don’t like this, hold your own meeting.” So we are. We invite President Stenger; Provost Donald Nieman; Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose; Dean of Students April Thompson; Dean of Harpur College Anne McCall; Multicultural Resource Center Director Nicole Johnson; Director of the ODEI Valerie Hampton; and all other relevant administrators to join us for an open Town Hall meeting on Friday, March 6 at 5 p.m. with the room to be announced. We are looking forward to everyone’s attendance and participation in developing concrete actions against racism and ways to make this campus truly inclusive.
All power to the people,
Onyx Ramirez, political science and sociology, class of 2017
Jessica Dunn, sociology, political science, and Africana studies, class of 2017
Melisa Brito, sociology and Latin American and Caribbean area studies, class of 2016
On behalf of Students for Change