Craig Steven Wilder addressed the importance of universities having open, honest conversations about their racial history on Thursday.
Wilder, historian of American institutions and ideas, and Julian Hayter, historian in Jepson School of Leadership Studies, led students and faculty in a town hall discussion of racial tensions on college campuses and histories of race and racism at universities.
About 75 people attended the talk in Jepson Hall, completely filling the lecture hall and leaving some people to stand in the back. The discussion began with a conversation between Wilder and Hayter about Wilder’s book, "Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities." Afterward, the audience asked questions.
In his book, Wilder investigated the history of slavery at American institutions, and modern universities’ refusals to acknowledge these histories.
“Silence is far more oppressive than a difficult conversation,” Wilder said.
Sophomore Shira Smille turned the discussion of university slave history to the present by asking Wilder about student activism on modern campuses.
“We’re looking at a new generation of student activism, which I think is necessary and important, and a lot of my concerns about it are that it puts an unfair burden on students, particularly on students of color, to rescue their institution,” Wilder said.
Wilder said that faculty should be valued in larger campus roles, rather than solely academic research, in order to ease this burden on students.
Alicia Jiggetts, a freshman, related the lecture to her classwork. Contrary to Wilder’s suggestions, she found through research that “we can’t move forward without forgetting the past.”
Wilder and Hayter both encouraged discussing racial pasts on college campuses in order to avoid racial silences in the present.
“Coming to terms with history is a step in the right direction,” Hayter said.
Contact news writer Missy Schrott at firstname.lastname@example.org
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