Beloit College Magazine

Beloit College Magazine

Summer 2015 (July 21, 2015 at 6:00 am)

New Wave of Activism, Commitment to Being an Anti-Racist College


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July 13, 2015 at 11:41 am

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Students, faculty, and staff rallied early on the morning of April 22 for a Sustained Dialogue Summit on Racism at Beloit. Photo by Trevor Johnson’08

Just as two initiatives examining race, racism, and identity were connecting to the national conversation about race this spring, a series of racist incidences shook the college to its core and set off a wave of student activism, the likes of which Beloit has not seen in decades.

The first incident occurred in February, when a poster of a woman of color displayed in Morse-Ingersoll Hall was defaced. On Feb. 27, the exterior of a student residence was spray-painted with a racist threat.

The college pursued the racist graffiti incident as a hate crime and, among other actions, hired a private detective to help find the perpetrator. However, as of press time, the crime remained unsolved. Several other incidences in late February and March included someone removing posters and scrawling racist phrases on boards, one in the library and another in a classroom.

All of this occurred as a group of faculty, students, and staff was in the midst of presenting a highly successful Black Lives Matter Beloit series. Connected to the national movement protesting the killings of unarmed black men by police, the series attracted large crowds and productive conversations about activism, institutional racism, and policing in post-9/11 America. At the same time, a growing number of people on campus were participating in Sustained Dialogue, which brings small groups of students, faculty, and staff together to discuss identity and build trust among groups that might not otherwise interact.

In response to the racist incidences, concerned students formed a group called Students for an Inclusive Campus. Armed with a mission statement, they presented college leaders with a list of demands and protested at an Academic Senate meeting in May where they petitioned for a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes, more faculty and staff of color, added programs and support for students of color, and the addition of a second, tenured faculty member in the Critical Identity Studies department among other things.

Meanwhile, college leaders were responding with long- and short-term strategies aimed at addressing the incidences and improving living and learning for all Beloit students. “Beloit College, to realize its mission, must be an anti-racist institution ... at a cellular level,” Provost Ann Davies said.

A major college initiative called “Inclusive Living and Learning” was getting off the ground just as classed ended. Led by Professor of Religious Studies Debra Majeed, the task force of students, faculty, staff, and alumni involved with the initiative expects to engage the campus throughout the coming academic year.

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