Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of The Collegian.
The latest act of protest in this back-and-forth surrounding the Black Student Coalition’s Protect Our Web demands has been to lobby against supporting the University of Richmond’s 2021 UR Here Giving Day. After the largely successful push to get student organizations to “disaffiliate” from the school was met with a doubling down by the Trustees that building names would remain the same, the BSC needed a new strategy. Unfortunately, this new campaign is short-sighted and selfish, contrary to some of their previous calls-to-action. Despite the noble intentions of the Black Student Coalition, this strategy is the wrong way to accomplish their goals and only harms our fellow Spiders.
This year, Giving Day is a 36-hour event running from April 7-8 where participants can donate to an area of UR they are passionate about. Ranging from academics and athletics to well-being and student life, donors can choose where they want their money to go. At the conclusion of the event, other generous people have pledged to match whatever the total donation is, or add a bonus if a goal is reached, according to the Giving Day website. In the end, all of this money goes to running UR and continuing to provide a high-quality of life for students.
The Board of Trustees has already communicated that it will not be changing the names of Ryland or Mitchell-Freeman halls, nor does the Board intend to reconsider. From the outset, this drive to prevent people from supporting Giving Day seems like a purely punitive response, unlikely to make any actual change and not one with the ideals of activism and social justice at its core.
The rationale behind the current movement seems to be this: preventing donations to the school will harm trustees and UR’s bank account enough that it will prompt them to change the names. Although this could occur, however unlikely, what will certainly happen is that our fellow students and future Spiders will have less funding available to support meaningful student programs and functions.
Funding acquired during Giving Day is put toward areas of greatest need at UR, including financial aid. The Protect Our Web statement notes, “Black students continue to struggle to bear the heavy load of pursuing higher education,” and describes our campus as “largely homogeneous.” Part of that heavy load is tuition, and that is true for all students -- not just students of color.
By targeting Giving Day, proponents of this strategy inadvertently assault UR’s ability to assist students in need. If the goal is to break away from the “homogeneous” composition that currently exists on campus, shouldn’t the goal also be to offer admittance and greater financial aid to underrepresented groups? Telling people not to donate to UR hinders its ability to attract underrepresented groups of students and seemingly flies in the face of what the Protect Our Web document notes as a campus issue.
The Giving Day website lists one of its main impact areas as well-being, which is directly linked with Counseling and Psychological Services and the Student Health Center. One of the Protect Our Web demands is to subsidize off-campus mental health services for Black students until more therapists of color can be hired by UR.
By campaigning against a UR fundraiser, the BSC is advocating to put less money into UR’s pocket for services that actually help students. It means less money could go toward meeting Protect Our Web demands. Perhaps some of this money could go toward hiring more CAPS therapists of color or potentially paying for off-campus student health services.
Another major impact area listed on the Giving Day website is student life, which states that funding goes toward things like the Center for Student Involvement and Multicultural Affairs. This corresponds with another area of concern in the Protect Our Web document pertaining to the failure of UR to allocate resources toward multicultural organizations and groups.
In section four of the Protect Our Web document, students suggest that UR actually allocates resources away from those initiatives. To support this allegation, the document cites the creation of the Multicultural Student Space instead of a new building as was initially lobbied for. However, the creation of this space still diverted funding toward an initiative driven by students of color. The campaign against Giving Day also does not seem to take into account CSI’s plan to make unoccupied lodges available for student groups to rent. Although this change is not specific to multicultural groups, they will have access to the lodges, so it is a step in the right direction.
The BSC statement mentions the original student plan to build a multicultural house, something that would likely fall under the purview of CSI or Multicultural Affairs. By encouraging people not to donate on Giving Day, advocates are actually encouraging people to withhold funds that could go toward addressing concerns of the Protect Our Web document, like the creation of this house.
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In conclusion, whether people realize it or not, supporters of the campaign against Giving Day will cause irreparable damage to UR by telling others to withhold donations. This damage adversely impacts current and future Spiders, and its actual impact will be contrary to many of the goals stated in the Protect Our Web document.
Contact contributor Kevin Spear at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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