Our university, much like our state, participates in sweep-it-under-the-rug politics.
As long as we can present the façade of diversity, then we stay out of the limelight. It is no coincidence that the Confederate flag came down only after South Carolina made the national news. Concerns have historically been met with phrases like “my hands are tied,” “help me help you” and “if you bring us solutions we’ll try to make them happen.” Each round of complaints or issues ends with the creation of a new committee on diversity, a forum or an email from our president that promises change, when historically, the only promise that gets kept is that we will have ongoing discussions on our issues.
These discussions did not stop Gracen Tilton. These discussions have not added gender neutral restrooms to our campus. They have not increased minority enrollment or retention, and homecoming is still only meaningful to a homogenous group of students.
It needs to be said that I love this school. However, in 1955 James Baldwin said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” This is how I feel about USC. For all the wonderful experiences and opportunities that we have access to by nature of our status as students, minority students have not been afforded the necessary protections and resources in order to thrive without having to create our own spaces, programs and opportunities that others are given inherently.
We should no longer struggle to provide for ourselves what can and should rightfully be provided for us. Why are we paying the university to provide programming, policies and protections that are for all us but are insufficient for many?
Certainly the events of Columbia, Missouri, mirror the frustrations of us here in Columbia, South Carolina. But to be clear, these frustrations did not come from theirs. For months we have sat on committees, attended forums and waited for change to come.
Unfortunately, it is beyond evident that these things only do lip service for the purpose of keeping up appearances. Some of us have been working hard to find solutions to the issues that plague us. But this work is not our responsibility; rather, it is the responsibility of the administration to provide equitable resources to all students.
There is never going to be a perfect time for us to stand up and say that we need to be heard. There will never be a better time than the present for our university to ensure that all students are afforded equitable experiences without limitations. Instead of a “Stand with Mizzou” demonstration, our solidarity should be in the form of fighting for our own justice.
To our friends at Mizzou and colleges across the country: we hear you, we see you and we stand with you. Right now, we have an opportunity to change the landscape of college campuses for historically marginalized groups and individuals for generations to come.
But in order to do that, we must work on our own campus first.
— Written by Karli Wells, fourth-year African-American Studies student and President of Students Invested In Change