The Collegian
Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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Amid campus turmoil Anthony Lawrence wants to be a voice for the voiceless

<p>Anthony Lawrence stands outside the Whitehurst Building.&nbsp;</p>

Anthony Lawrence stands outside the Whitehurst Building. 

The morning light seeps into the dark corners of Gray Court, illuminating a clean, well-organized room. The neat arrangement of pen cups, hand sanitizer and class handouts presents a synergy between efficiency and organization within junior Anthony Lawrence’s dorm room. Lawrence quickly makes his bed as he prepares himself for his classes and the swath of questions he is sure to face after stepping outside.

The moment he crosses into the brightly lit hallway, Lawrence is no longer an ordinary student; he is the newly elected president of the Richmond College Student Government Association and as such is responsible for his peers.

But, Lawrence’s time as president has already been different from past presidencies. RCSGA voted to disaffiliate on March 21, right before Lawrence was sworn in as the 2020-21 president in the same meeting. 

During Lawrence’s transition to president, University of Richmond president Ronald Crutcher sent an email to the UR community on March 17, accompanied by a statement from the Board of Trustees, affirming that UR would not rename Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls as the Black Student Coalition demanded.

RCSGA will remain disaffiliated — meaning that normal operations, such as weekly meetings, will no longer occur but student concerns will still be heard — until Lawrence calls a vote to reinstate operations, which will need to pass by a two-thirds majority, as previously reported by The Collegian. 

Lawrence, who is also the treasurer of the Black Student Alliance, said the Black students and faculty he had spoken to saw the March 17 email as doubling down. Lawrence also commented on how the email was only going to “stir the pot,” he said. 

Lawrence thinks the board should have taken it upon themselves to send the message, rather than have their decision come through Crutcher. Lawrence shared his opinion of Crutcher’s relationship with the board. 

“I want to let it be known that the Board of Trustees are pretty much using Crutcher as like a prop,” Lawrence said. “They’re the ones sending a message and just having Crutcher say it. … That’s like the epitome of white supremacy. Make the Black guy tell the people to shut up or whatever.”

Disaffiliation, for Lawrence, is meant to disrupt operations. Lawrence said he had gone back and forth when deciding whether to disaffiliate.

“I just have to make sure that’s what is most important and most helpful to the movement,” Lawrence said. “If something’s not going to serve the movement, or me doing something is not going to serve the movement, then I’m not going to do it. If me disaffiliating would serve the movement, which I think it would, then it’s definitely something I’m going to do.”

Lawrence thought about whether to resign or disaffiliate with one priority: the well-being of his constituents. He also referred back to the message of his campaign: lead with love.

“We’re all human, so we do have our different opinions, different backgrounds, different races, different cultures, but we can still relate on that basic humanity,” Lawrence said. 

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Upon learning about his presidential victory, which was announced on March 11 by former RCSGA president AJ Polcari, Lawrence said he had felt a whirlwind of emotions and excitement — but was humbled by the amount of work that came with the position, he said.

“One of the things that I am good at is being able to take a step back and realize the greater scheme of so many things,” Lawrence said. “I kind of look at [being president] from a 1,000-foot view …. When I do that I realize that this is going to probably be one of the hardest things that I take on in my life.”

Lawrence sees his new position as an opportunity for personal growth as well.

“I’m so excited to see how God uses me in this, but also to see how I’m able to grow from a leadership standpoint,” Lawrence said. “I know this is going to grow me so much and I’m going to be able to look back and say this was the best year of my life.”

Polcari believes Lawrence will be a great RCSGA president, he said. 

“I feel Anthony, his gifts, his personality, his compassion, his heart… He is someone who’s not only a great advocate [but] a strong leader who gets things done,” Polcari said. “The man is just incredible.”

Lawrence does not value his presidency for the power. Instead, he says the most rewarding part of his role is his ability to give a platform to underrepresented students.

“I think the cliche is, like, ‘Being a voice for the voiceless,’” Lawrence said. “That’s really what I want to be and want to embody.”

Senior TJ Tann, who knew Lawrence from high school, has witnessed firsthand Lawrence in leadership positions and has seen him grow during their shared time at UR, Tann said.

“I definitely think that over the course of his college career he’s become more and more outspoken and more and more confident in taking bold stances,” Tann said. “That’s one way that I think he’s evolved. He’s a more complete thinker and more aware of the overall landscape of what needs to be done.” 

When he is not corralling RCSGA, Lawrence is highly involved across UR. He is a part of men’s club basketball, the Multicultural Student Space Council, the Peer Advisors and Mentors Program, the BSA and Men’s Talk. On top of his extracurricular involvement, Lawrence also sells tickets in the Modlin Center for the Arts box office.

Because he is a first-generation college student, Lawrence likes being as involved as he can, he said.

Regardless of his new office, Lawrence wants people to recognize he is only human. He is just as capable of making mistakes as any other student and must be held accountable, he said. 

“I want people to hold me accountable so that I can be a better leader so that I can represent this community better and to the best of my ability,” Lawrence said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I definitely have the resources. I definitely have the people. I definitely have the support, and I definitely have the reach on campus in order to get the right answer.”

Editor-in-chief Olivia Diaz contributed to reporting.

Contact features writer Quinn Humphrey at quinn.humphrey@richmond.edu.

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