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Discussion on Racial Justice at BU

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

By: Leah Wilkinson and Katelyn Norris

1. What was your initial reaction to President Donovan’s response to the Breonna Taylor decision?

Khi Craig: If I’m being honest, I thought it was a good statement, but not nearly as radical enough to have gotten the attention it received. And if I’m being even more honest, I was expecting it to be much more vague, and it was such a hard day for me that I didn’t even read it until I saw it on a news site.

Kelze’ Riley: I was highly impressed by Dr. Donovan’s response. I was not expecting her to address some of the things she did, and it made me proud to be a BU student.

2. What are your thoughts on classes being cancelled after 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 and for the all of the following day, Sept. 24?

KC: It’s funny because though I was a part of the student group advocating for cancellation of classes, I didn’t know how much I needed it until the day came. I was sore from marching, suffering a little PTSD due to the night of protesting before, super sad, and had a neck wound from being shot by rubber bullets. I get the feeling the administration probably thought we were using that break to relax, but many of us spent it trying to channel our passion for change by protesting. As the semester moves on, and the reality that that was the only break we were getting, it makes me realize that for me, there is no difference between those two days and the days since. They were all hard, all filled with people protesting. More unarmed police deaths have come afterward. I’m actually getting more anxious as the year progresses to see exactly which president is going to be responsible for the next 4 years’ worth of racial violence.

KR: I was appreciative that classes were cancelled as I went protesting that evening and would not have been able to attend class in the mental state I was in. Most teachers were accommodating, which made it easier to process.

3. Why do you think Donovan received negative attention for her response?

KC: I think Dr. Donovan got that response because of a hard truth — since the civil rights movement, this stance on social justice, specifically racial justice, was new coming from Bellarmine. We had always vaguely said we stood in solidarity, and said Black Lives Mattered — but in no way did those statements hold people accountable- which is the first time to equity. This statement holds people accountable for their place in upholding white supremacy in a way Bellarmine hasn’t done.

KR: Frankly, some white people are blind to the role they play in systemic racism and many are not ready to take away the rose-colored lens that they have on so that they can examine said role. I also think some alumni do not understand how forward-moving BU needs to be in order to support students of color.

4. Do you feel that Bellarmine should have done anything differently?

KC: No, Bellarmine did everything right. If the statement was done sloppily, she would have had a completely different demographic mad at her. I’m glad she’s on the right side of this, and in the future, I hope she can look back and be proud that she was on the right side of this, too.

KR: No, I feel BU did better than many places and satisfied the asks of students.

5. What are your thoughts on the “In Solidarity with Dr. Donovan” letter signed by members of the Bellarmine community and sent to the Board of Trustees?

KC: I think it was extremely necessary and I support it 100%. Last year when I was on the news for speaking about racial inequality, I was called a lot of names, so I know firsthand how you can feel discouraged after doing what’s right, especially when right doers are in the minority, but it was the support from the people working towards justice with me that kept me pushing.

KR: I signed this because I stand in solidarity with her. I think it is important to let the Board know that students did not feel left out but supported by the decision to cancel classes. It’s hard to release something of that nature, but Dr. Donovan knew it was important.

6. Is there more you feel Bellarmine could do to show support to its BIPOC students? If so, what?

KC: There’s always more Bellarmine could do for its students of color. For one, we need a clear-cut flowchart for bias, especially faculty. There should be standard penalties for different bias incidents. Verbal receives something, unintentional receives something else, and violence receives something more severe. I think we need more scholarships for students of color. I think the Identity Equity Committee on SGA should be an e-board position with a budget and voting capabilities. Lastly, I think we need to tackle the way we teach first-year students about inequality. It’s more than just “Just Mercy.” It’s more than just “the criminal justice system,” and it’s more than just “finding your community.” Aside from this, there is nothing qualifying these teachers to be able to teach about equality, especially aside from the script we receive. There is always more to be done, but those are the ones I could think of off the top of my head.

KR: There is so much more work Bellarmine has to do to show support to BIPOC, but it is not something that I could list easily.

7. What is the biggest recent change you’ve noticed at Bellarmine in the fight against racial injustice?

KC: The biggest change I see are people visibly proud to share their views. I flaunt my Black Lives Matter mask. I see them in dorm windows all the time, bumper stickers, etc. I think it has more to do with the threat and urgency to Black lives than anything at Bellarmine, but it also says a lot about how protected and comfortable we now feel at Bellarmine.

8. Do you believe Bellarmine is becoming a more equitable campus?

KC: I believe Bellarmine has set the tone to becoming more equitable. However, I also feel that the things we need to do (more than just the things I mentioned before), will cause an even bigger schism in the Bellarmine community as more people out themselves as threats to human life. But, I do see changes every day, and I’m proud of what I see.

KR: The answer to this depends on one’s personal definition of equity. To me, I would say the culture of Bellarmine is definitely moving towards becoming more equitable, but this is not something that can fully be achieved. I think we forget about other identities and intersectionalities when speaking of equity, and we have a very long way to go.

9. What’s one thing you want members of the Bellarmine community to know?

KC: I want the Bellarmine community to know BIPOC on campus are exhausted. I haven’t spoken to a single one who was thriving. We’re doing the best we can — but to be expected to succeed academically while being under attack socially and physically — is a task a lot of us have not yet mastered. To be a truly equitable campus means to recognize that and treat us accordingly.


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