The Black Student Union kicked off its semester with its State of the Black Student Union and a discussion of black representation on campus.
“The University needs to create a system of accountability for the Board of Trustees and President (Michael) McRobbie’s decision to retain and increase the number of black students,” said Ronald Gilbert, Black Student Union president at Wednesday’s meeting at the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.
Gilbert said this particular “mass meeting,” as it’s called, is a way for the presidents of the Black Student Union to bring up issues that they believe should be addressed by the union’s members throughout the current semester.
Racial discrimination at IU wasn’t brought up by Gilbert nor the panel of students. Gilbert said exclusion was more of a problem.
“The problem is you don’t feel like you’re supposed to be here,” Gilbert said. “Some of the events and programs are not inclusive and create an overall feeling of not belonging if you’re of African-American descent. Other races feel that way, too.”
Many of these events are school-wide, and their target audience is supposed to be all students, Gilbert said.
“A good example is the Little 5 bike race,” Gilbert said. “Historically it’s not an event that black students flock to. It’s more of a greek event.”
Other events discussed were those put on by the Union Board, where minorities are not always represented in an official capacity.
However, not all students said they felt that way.
“I’ve never felt like I didn’t belong,” said junior Aigner Hart, Black Student Union education chair. “But I felt like I had to stand up in my diversity class, where I was one of three blacks, and I had to tell them, ‘I don’t speak for the black community. I don’t know how she feels or what he thinks.’ The professor understood that, but I don’t think I should have to feel like I have to stand up and explain that.”
Besides mobilizing members to address certain issues that are important to the black community, Black Student Union members engages in one community service event per month, among others.
One such event will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 and is a collaboration with the African Student Association. The event is titled “Same Color, Different Race” and is meant to educate people on the differences between what it means to be African American and African. No location has been set at this time.
Gilbert explained what the Black Student Union means to him.
“I think it’s an umbrella organization for all black students, wherever they come from. It brings black students together and is a platform for black students to come together in fellowship.”
However, Gilbert said the Black Student Union is not just for students of African-American descent.
“The Black Student Union is open to anyone with an interest in African-American culture and issues,” Gilbert said. “Students have power, but there is power in numbers, more so than any one student. Now more than ever, all students need to unify and work together.”