Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Conference addresses race issues

June 25, 2001

After a year of sit-ins, takeovers and death threats, members of Penn State University’s undergraduate student government decided to take action against racism on campus.

And they brought the rest of the Big Ten with them.

During the Association of Big Ten Students annual summer conference last week, eight representatives from ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government, and eight other schools’ representatives signed a bill sending condolences to Penn State and standing up against racism in their own schools.

The student governments also supported a Sept. 15 demonstration against death threats and murders to take place at Penn State.

“(The bill) was saying that we understand what was going on over there, and we don’t want that on our campus,” said Matt Weingarden, ASMSU Student Assembly vice chairperson for internal affairs. “We’re going to stand up on our campus.”

Black student leaders and others at Penn State received death threats during the year. One mentioned a black male body would be found in the woods near campus.

Since then, the bodies of two black men and one black woman have been found in woods throughout the state.

While no connection has been found between the murders and the threats, both led to a 10-day, 1,000-student takeover of the student union.

The student government, administrators and other student groups at Penn State have been working to increase diversity, publicize the university’s problems and create a plan to improve race relations.

But they aren’t just trying to decrease racial tension in Pennsylvania.

“This is an issue that happened at Penn State, but racism exists everywhere,” said Justin Zartman, president of the university’s undergraduate student government. “It may not be as prominent in other schools, but racism still exists.

“I don’t expect things to go back to how they were before.”

ASMSU Academic Assembly Chairperson Matt Clayson said he was shocked to hear about the events playing out at the fellow land grant university.

“To me, that seems like a big cover-up,” he said. “If it were here, it would make the police infiltration look like nothing.”

Like the issues at Penn State, a 2000 undercover MSU police infiltration into Students for Economic Justice activist group has brought together student representatives, administrators and police to address the situation.

While the Big Ten bill called for solidarity between the student governments, Clayson said MSU is leaps and bounds ahead of other Big Ten universities when it comes to diversity.

“We do have something to be proud of,” he said. “You come back thinking, ‘I really go to a good university.’

“It’s a really inspirational thing for delegates. They want to come back and do things with a Spartan twist,” she said.

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