Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian. This op-ed was written prior to the pausing of Giving Day.
I appreciate Kevin Spear’s willingness to present his perspectives and views. As someone who has written many editorials for various publications, I can appreciate the efforts that are taken to research, write and publish a piece. This however does not mean that I agree with the views that he offers in his recent editorial. To effect change, we must refrain from giving anything to the University of Richmond.
Spear's argument begins by first contextualizing the overwhelming amount of support that the Protect Our Web Movement has received, as indicated by disaffiliation of student organizations, departments and student committees. Although he gives due credit to the movement's level of support, he continues by saying that the Black Student Coalition "needed a new strategy." Here, Spear argues that using a new or modified strategy is something that is inherently wrong or unwise. This characterization is deeply troubling.
As I understand it, strategy is a complex, moving element that adapts to the needs of the community enacting them. With that said, I think it is appropriate and necessary for members and supporters of the Black Student Coalition to adopt new strategies while also expanding ones that are already active to promote all of the demands of the coalition.
Next, Spear argues that the movement’s collective action to not participate in UR’s annual fundraiser, UR Here, is "short-sighted and selfish." By using these words, Spear seems to discredit the work of the BSC without offering any solutions to the things he contextualizes as problems. Although Spear is not required to offer such solutions, his argument would be better received if he offered what he imagines the best strategy to be.
I must also acknowledge how Spear seems to have forgotten that the UR's Board of Trustees are the true culprits of myopia and egotism. To date, the Board has denied the wishes of a significant number of campus community members that consist of current students, faculty, staff and alumni. And although some statements from the Board have now come forth, the baseline demand has not been achieved. Despite motions from both student governments, the faculty senate, academic departments and university units, the names remain.
This blatant disregard for the campus community shows that the absolute detriment of selfishness rests within the individual members of the Board who, according to their April 5 letter to the Faculty Senate, unanimously agreed to leave the surnames of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman on two campus buildings.
Spear's argument continues with him attempting to present Giving Day as a compelling opportunity for campus community members to support their "Richmond passion;" however, here, he does not seem to understand that for many of us, our "Richmond passion" is supporting the BSC and ensuring that the stated demands are met to improve our lives and the lives of all UR students.
In opposition to the movement, Spear writes about how the Office of Financial Aid is an area of critical need because it is one well-known department that is a recipient of UR Here Funds. This is a clear appeal to people who categorize themselves as philanthropic. While his argument for supporting UR Here comes with some merit, Spear’s misunderstanding of how many of UR’s functional areas are funded demeans this merit.
Because UR is among 1% of schools that meet 100% of each student’s demonstrated financial need, the financial aid office has only a marginal need for additional funds through fundraisers such as UR Here. According to UR’s most recent financial statements, the financial aid office received more than $86,000,000 during the 2019-2020 year to subsidize the cost of a UR degree through scholarships and grants. Many students on campus will continue to receive the same level of financial aid, regardless of the results of an institutional fundraiser. This same logic seems to apply to the other departments that Spear mentions in his article: The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Center for Student Involvement. While the option to give is available, there is no crucial need for fundraised capital. In another line of UR’s financial statements, it states that more than $53,000,000 was spent on student services. It seems to me that both OMA and CSI fall within that classification of programs. If folks are concerned about not being able to support student organizations, they should know that student organizations are appropriated funds by the Student Organization Budget and Allocation Committee which is overwhelmingly composed of students.
The most damning part of Spear's editorial is his contextualization of "the heavy load" that Black students are forced to carry and endure while at UR. Although it is true that some students are concerned with the cost of attendance, it seems that the emotional and psychological baggage of being a Black student at UR is the "heavy load" that members of the Black Student Coalition are referring to. .
The history, actions and experiences that create this baggage have been documented by archivists working with the Race and Racism Project. They have been catalogued in The Collegian. And a great many of them may never be documented.
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Of course, this “load” encompasses the negative experiences of many different types of students with various identities, including those that are white. It just so happens that the Black students are the ones that have formed official, yet informal, coalitions to combat the concerns of white supremacy and exclusion in a public way.
Since matriculating to UR, many Black students have advocated for change on several different fronts. We have been vocal about what it takes to build a truly inclusive campus, we have made our experiences clear to many people and we have asked countless times for tangible action to be taken. On each of these occasions, we have been gaslighted, lied to or ignored. Now is the time to do something about that. It is time for the campus community to hold the Board members accountable for their decisions and the negative impact that those decisions have on the community members that make up our campus.
The institution we inhabit needs to be revamped. As mentioned in its Articles of Incorporation, UR is a non-stock issuing corporation. The institution is also managed predominately by a group of white male investment bankers. If they are unable to understand the impact of their words and actions, we must do something that they understand—and that, unfortunately, involves the money.
To effect change, we must refrain from giving anything to UR.
By not giving, there will be unexpected consequences; however, it seems that many of us are willing to make this sacrifice because of how much we value humanity, dignity and equity. We further believe in the power of true diversity and seek to exist within an environment that no longer forces us to assimilate or adapt to the environment as if we are the outsiders.
Contact contributor Will Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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