WEST LAFAYETTE — On Friday, a group of IU students took seven hours out of their time to stand in solidarity with Purdue University students during a sit-in rally at Purdue to combat the string of racist incidents that have occurred consistently over a year.
According to FBI statistics from 2011, Purdue is ranked second in the country among United States colleges for the number of reported hate crimes. The Associated Press reported that since 2012, there have been 12 hate crimes documented by police.
Possibly the most well-known hate crime that happened in the past year was the defacing and vandalizing of a memorial portrait of Dr. Cornell Bell, a highly influential black business school professor, with the writing of the “n-word.”
However, there have been a plethora of other cases, like Asian students being racially attacked on Twitter and students writing the “n-word” on a classroom board in front of African American students.
Because of the increased racial attacks students felt on Purdue’s campus, both reported and personal, five graduate students and one undergraduate student created the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition to create a strategic plan to not only combat racism, but increase diversity as well.
They have a list of seven demands including doubling the population of underrepresented minority faculty in 10 years in which only 11 of the current full-time 500 professors are black, creating an anti-racism grievance committee, making a mandatory class about racism for incoming students, and establishing an Asian/Asian American Resource and Cultural Center to support the Asian population.
A few weeks ago, the words “white supremacy” were discovered on a mirror in the Black Culture Center after a seminar in a classroom. There has been much confusion in the media as well as on Purdue’s campus over whether the words were there because of a prior class, or whether it was actually produced with malice and bias.
The police concluded the report by stating the incident was indeed intentional.
The “white supremacy” incident still sparked PARC to form a rally at their campus. The students believed, whether the incident was intentional or not, the increased racist incidents on campus are still an issue.
The Monday after IU students met at the Diversity Coalition rally at Sample Gates to advocate for the fixing of IU’s diversity programs, the students of PARC formed an anti-racism rally at their campus. There were more than 200 people of different backgrounds marching from their Memorial Hall to the steps of the administration building, Hovde Hall.
The morning after the rally, it was reported that someone had defaced a placard that had been left behind. On the poster, which originally said “No Racism,” was a stick figure hanging on a tree and a scratch out mark changed “racism” to the word “niggers.”
This spawned the establishment of the list of demands for the university, including a public denouncement of racism from Purdue President Mitch Daniels.
Their main goal at the Friday sit-in rally was to meet with President Daniels and to make him give a public speech about diversity.
Leighton Johnson, a junior and one of the Diversity Coalition leaders at IU led the group of four students — herself, Derek Hutton-Kinsey, Emma Campbell and Brandon Washington — to Purdue University. Johnson said the Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition invited him and other IU representatives to support their efforts in combating diversity issues on their campus. When he spoke to the crowd of about 40 people, he asked them if they felt at home at Purdue. The students grumbled.
“A lot of the Black and Latino students feel marginalized in the university where they’re not comfortable with themselves on campus, and they’re not being supported in ways that they should be.” Johnson said.
Johnson thinks Purdue might be worse than IU when it comes to diversity, considering the fact their African-American population is 3.4 percent compared to IU’s 4 percent.
“I’ve been to Purdue a couple of times and the black community down there is so separated and fragile,” Johnson said. “They were telling me there was only 1 percent. We should feel celebrated. Here, Blacks and Latinos are just tolerated.” Johnson said.
Campbell, a junior and the President-Elect of the Black Student Union said she went on the trip to support Johnson as well as meet with Purdue’s Black Student Union.
“I feel as though when people are more knowledgeable with the issues that are occurring, it evokes change.” Campbell said.
Several PARC members took turns to speak about the lack of diversity on their campus and what the administration should do about it. They emphasized that back in the 1960s there was a slogan, “The Fire Next Time.” This year, this generation, their slogan is “The Fire This Time.”
Dean of Students Danita Brown watched the rally from nearby and said it was beneficial for the students to open up that dialogue and that communication.
“It’s a call to action,” Brown said. “It’s about reflecting on our values, our expectations of what and who Boilermakers truly are. Those are the first steps: just bringing everybody together. We sit in our rooms or sit in our offices, not necessarily connecting and being inclusive and its time to all come together.”
Mitch Daniels spoke for two minutes to the small crowd after meeting with the six PARC leaders.
“In my opinion, we had a really good conversation; it’s the prospect of something very good coming here,” Daniels said. “The ideas that this group and I have been discussing are very broadly viewed across this campus. We’ve said in the plainest English, what we do and don’t find acceptable, and now the idea is to draw the entire campus community. We need everybody, staff, faculty and our neighbors to have the same aspirations that we all share.”
Daniels said he liked the practical ideas of the coalition and that he was going to start working with the PARC leaders right away.
After the meeting with Mitch Daniels, Ebony Barnett-Kennedy, a junior and one of the PARC leaders said Mitch Daniels was receptive and agreed to their demands.
“Our role in going in there was to talk with him and show him how we can be active in that plan,” Barnett-Kennedy said. “To show him that this is a not students against the administration and that we need to stand together to create an environment that’s inclusive for all.”
Johnson said as IU students who advocate for diversity, their main goal is to build a community with the Purdue students and support them. Johnson suggested to PARC students about including more undergraduates in the coalition.
“The rally is just the beginning.” Johnson said. “We’re taking it to next year, bring legitimate change to campuses state wide and hopefully even nationwide.”
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