Editor’s note: This story has been changed to reflect the accurate date of the Shaw Hall renovations.
In a tense and emotionally charged atmosphere, four members of MSU’s Black Student Alliance, or BSA, denounced what they call the university’s perceived racist culture and targeted the university administration and the Board of Trustees for their response to a recent string of racially charged campus incidents during the board’s Friday meeting.
The students called for an update to the university’s diversity and inclusion policies, and also advocated for an increase in cultural outreach efforts and the creation of a multicultural center housed in a separate facility from its current location in the basement of the Union.
The comments — delivered during the public participation portion of the board’s meeting — are another show of public outcry from the BSA, who previously held a silent march and a rally attended by hundreds of students to address three separate racial incidents that occurred in a span of less than a week earlier this October.
BSA President and education senior Mario Lemons said at the meeting he and other students continue to feel threatened at MSU despite Simon’s remarks.
“We do not feel safe here at this university,” Lemons said. “The university needs to take initiative.”
Lemons and others say a free-standing multicultural center would address this problem and provide a safe haven for students who feel threatened by racism.
Simon told students and media after the meeting she sympathizes with their perspective, and is in the process of arranging meetings with members of the BSA and other administrators to move forward with better policies to target racially insensitive offenders.
“I’ve fought this battle a lot,” Simon told a group of students following the meeting. “I marched in a civil rights march (as a student in the 1960s).”
Members of the BSA said that aside from the three incidents Simon notes in her email, seven other incidents involved with racially intimidating statements and actions have occurred since the start of this school year.
“Measures against racism must be taken in any form,” journalism junior Silver Moore told the board at the meeting. “Oftentimes, hate is simply bred by ignorance.”
Prior to the public comments portion of the meeting, the board also approved an authorization to proceed with construction renovations in Brody Complex Neighborhood and at Shaw Hall, moves poised to upgrade areas of heavy student traffic on-campus.
About $32 million worth of planned construction at Bryan and Armstrong halls in Brody Complex Neighborhood is set to continue after the board’s vote, with work slated to start in May 2012, and substantial completion set for May 2013. Currently, Bailey and Rather halls in the same neighborhood are under construction right now, and the complex’s new cafeteria, the $49 million Brody Square, opened in August 2010.
The board also unanimously approved an authorization to proceed with a $13.95 million renovation to Shaw Hall, one of the busier cafeterias in the heart of campus.
An overhaul at the site — which will add three separate restaurants and expand seating capacity to 720 patrons — is slated to start in May 2012 and re-open for dining in January 2013, said Vennie Gore, assistant vice president for Residential and Hospitality Services.
Work at the new facility also will renovate the hall’s first-floor lounges and lobbies.
MSU Trustee Faylene Owen noted most changes to on-campus dining have been welcomed members of the MSU community.
“Not only do the students absolutely love this, the parents are thrilled,” she said.
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