The Black Student Union (BSU), under order of the Center for Student Diversity (CSD), has been “deactivated” this semester to realign their mission with the goals and values of the CSD.
The CSD has designated that BSU can hold three regular meetings this semester with its group. The members are encouraged to participate in panel discussions and social mixers, but cannot host events. In addition, CSD will be training the BSU executive board in leadership skills to help them be better leaders after they become active.
According to CSD Director Tirrany Thurmond, the deactivation is the result of a culmination of reasons among which was an altercation that took place after the BSU Fashion Show last spring, Public Safety Director Rodney Grays confirmed that there was no alcohol involved and that no Mount students were identified as aggressors in the altercation.
Thurmond also noted that none of the events last year followed CSD rules. “The groups were given too much autonomy, and now they greatly lack in effective leadership,” she stated.
BSU President Atinuke Jackson said that there was a great lack in communication between the BSU executive board and the leadership in CSD.
Thurmond aims to create a standard that all students must align with to be effective leaders. Dean of Students Kenneth McVearry stated that he had nothing more to add, but that he fully supports what CSD leadership is doing.
Jackson is not in agreement with the break. “I feel like we could have worked on our leadership skills while still serving the needs of the black students on campus.”
Student responses to the call for deactivation have been varied. Sophomore Lyndsey Saunders thought that the call was justified because of the miscommunication. “While it is heartbreaking that I couldn’t be in it this semester, I think it’s good that they’ll have time to perfect the logistics and programming for spring events. They will be able to come back stronger than ever.”
A student who wishes to be anonymous added that this will be good because, “I don’t even feel black enough to be in BSU. I hope something changes during this break that makes them more welcoming to all students on campus.”
During the first of the three meetings on Sept. 12, tension was apparent between the CSD leadership and the BSU executive board. After the meeting, Thurmond noted that the BSU executive board had an opportunity to acknowledge the break and what happened to cause it, but “iced over it and ignored the point.”
Thurmond also stated that, “…you can’t be an organization standing up for marginalized students and want everything to remain comfortable.” Assistant Director of CSD, Kimberly Springer echoed Thurmond’s sentiments by saying, “one has to be open and transparent to be a good leader.”
First-year students present at the meeting said that without BSU on campus they feel isolated with nowhere to turn. One stated that the “biggest issue” they face is the lack of cultural appreciation. “They never play our music at campus-wide events,” remarked one student.
Thurmond recognized the students’ concerns, emphasizing the need to recognize the power in every person’s voice. “Just because BSU isn’t active doesn’t mean you can’t be.”
According to Thurmond, the goal moving forward is to return to being active next semester. At the Sept. 12 meeting, the event coordinator listed the events that BSU is currently planning for spring, including the fashion show, the lip-sync battle and the end-of-the-year cookout. They are also looking into new events and projects that will enrich their academic and volunteer service on campus and the surrounding communities.