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“It’s not over:” Black Student Coalition continues fighting for demands

<p>One of the pamphlets outlining the grievances of the Black Student Coalition on a chair at Boatwright Memorial Library on March 7, 2021. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

One of the pamphlets outlining the grievances of the Black Student Coalition on a chair at Boatwright Memorial Library on March 7, 2021.   

The Black Student Coalition’s demands to the University of Richmond have not been met, and the group is now continuing disaffiliation from UR fundraisers, marketing and communications, its members said in a YouTube livestream on Oct. 22.

A semester after the BSC received national coverage for demanding that UR retitle buildings named after Douglas Southall Freeman, a eugenicist, and Robert Ryland, an enslaver, the students behind the coalition declared that their efforts were not over. 

Last semester, student organizations also chose to halt their activities in support of the demands. However, the BSC no longer suggests that students and student organizations stop their programming because activities are too important to students’ well-being, according to the BSC website.

The students who spoke during the livestream did not identify themselves in an effort to emphasize that there are no leaders of the movement, as anyone who agrees with the demands is a part of it.

Although UR originally refused to remove the names of Freeman and Ryland from the buildings, the Board of Trustees created a commission of four trustees, an alumni representative, a student representative, a staff representative, a faculty representative and the executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation to establish principles on renaming. 

Currently, the Gallup Organization is conducting a survey of alumni, students, faculty, staff and parents to gather opinions about naming principles, according to an Oct. 12 email sent to the UR community. The BSC encourages students to respond to the survey, which was distributed to the community via email on Oct. 18 and 21. 

“We urge the commission to keep in mind the names that adorn our campus are a reflection of our institutional values,” a BSC member said during the livestream.

In addition to wanting UR to change the names of Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls, the BSC also demanded that UR subsidize off-campus mental health services for Black students, citing the heavy volume of students Counseling and Psychological Services has to deal with as well as the lack of Black therapists. Progress has not been made toward this demand, BSC members pointed out during the livestream. 

UR cannot subsidize off-campus mental health services for certain student populations, wrote Tom Roberts, associate vice president for Health & Well-being, in an Oct. 28 email sent to The Collegian by Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations. Instead of meeting the demand, UR started the CAPS Access Fund, a fundraising opportunity.

“The fund will provide current-use funding to support CAPS in its mission to ensure that all UR students have timely access to outstanding professional counseling services on UR’s campus,” Roberts wrote in the email.

According to the email, the funds will be used for hiring part-time professional clinical staff during periods of increased demand, providing support for clinical interns and supporting ongoing professional education for CAPS staff, including multicultural competency training.

Likewise, the addendum demands for UR to create an endowed chair position for the Africana Studies program and a plan to expand the Multicultural Space into a standalone building have not been addressed, the students said. 

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“We hope that the same vigor that the UR community gave toward the renaming is also applied to these demands,” a BSC member said during the livestream. 

Dan Palazzolo, interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, wrote in the email sent by Price that there are two faculty searches: one with the Department of Geography and the Environment and the other with the Department of History. The history search may result in the hire of an endowed chair, Palazzolo wrote. 

In regard to the Multicultural Space, Steve Bisese, vice president for Student Development, wrote in the email sent by Price that the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion’s new multi-use physical space was part of the UR’s commitment to building a more equitable and inclusive campus community. However, the “new” space he is referring to is the same as the Multicultural Space that has been open since 2019

Bisese did not address whether UR plans to create a standalone building not connected to Whiteshurst, where the Richmond Dean’s office is located.

Sophomore Katiana Isaac said she saw UR’s failure to meet the demands of the BSC as ignoring the needs of Black students. 

“We are not asking for a whole lot of things,” she said. “We just want to be able to thrive just as all the other students on campus without certain barriers.”

Senior Drew Strong shared the same sentiment as Isaac in regard to the oversight of the demands, but he is encouraged by students on UR’s campus continuing to pursue ways to better all students’ experiences. 

“I am hopeful we continue to participate in all channels of activism and such things like the poll to just make clear that this is not an issue we are willing to drop,” Strong said. 

The BSC ended the livestream by acknowledging the overwhelming support the group has received from the UR community, and providing ways for students to support their work. They urged students to attend a listening session with the Naming Principles Commission on Oct. 27 from 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. in the Alice Haynes Room. 

“We ask that everyone who can show up and voice their opinions and their support for our demands the names be removed,” a BSC member said in the livestream. 

Contact multimedia and investigative editor Jackie Llanos at jackie.llanoshernandez@richmond.edu and news writer Caitlin O’Hare at caitlin.ohare@richmond.edu

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