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MSU Black Students' Alliance calls for university support, accountability amid racial slur incident

September 23, 2023
MSU Student services building is located on 556 E. Circle Drive. The location of the MSU Safe Place services are confidential to protect their members safety.
MSU Student services building is located on 556 E. Circle Drive. The location of the MSU Safe Place services are confidential to protect their members safety.

After an incident where racial slurs were posted outside the Student Services Building on June 8 of this year, the Michigan State University Black Students' Alliance, or BSA, released a statement calling for support and accountability from the university.

The statement came after BSA held meetings with MSU faculty, staff and Interim President Teresa Woodruff to discuss safety measures directly related to the incident.

In the statement, BSA, an organization on campus that aims to ensure the protection and promotion of Black students through advocacy and support, addressed MSU's administration and explained the significance of what happened, what it is like to be a Black student at a predominantly white institution, or PWI, and action they hope to see regarding improving safety.

"We write this statement as we are clearly upset with the lack of support, accountability and the lack of awareness of what's going on within our campus," kinesiology senior and BSA President Ty'Rianna Leslie said in the statement. "We ask the administration to start a line of transparency with the Black Student body and hold each other accountable within the Institution so work can actually be done."

Neurscience senior and BSA Vice President Jordan Wesson said he did not know whether to feel frustrated, disappointed or sad after the June 8 incident.

“My initial opinion was that it’s unacceptable for somebody to even think that's okay to do,” Wesson said. “It was just the fact that students on campus need to be educated so instances like that don’t continue to happen.”

After processing the incident and attending the town hall meeting, Wesson said he has come to realize that change needs to happen in order for the safety and security of Black students to be accounted for and maintained.

“This is something that shouldn't be happening on campus,” Wesson said. “Moving forward, as we met with administration, it started to become ‘How can we hold people accountable?’ and ‘How we can keep this from happening to hold people accountable?’"

However, a complication of the incident was that it is considered hate speech and not a hate crime. Because it was hate speech, Wesson said, the university said not much action could necessarily be taken.

“A lot of what we were hearing in the prior meetings was we can’t do much because it’s hate speech and speech is protected under the First Amendment,” Wesson said. “If it incites violence or if it's threatening or directed at somebody… then that violates the policy. Even if it is hate speech, there's accountability that can be done and there's actions and consequences that they can hold these students to."

Leslie said that since late August, there have been four other accounts of hate speech involving Black female students, all of whom were either called racial and/or homophobic slurs. Leslie said she wants people, including MSU Public Safety, to recognize the fact that although hate speech and hate crime are different, both are extremely impactful to people and communities.

“I don’t think that people understand that hate speech can also make us feel uncomfortable as well,” Leslie said.

For the future, BSA has a few actions they believe need to be taken soon in order to maintain accountability and safety around campus.

In a meeting with MSU Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Marlon Lynch, they spoke about cameras and facial recognition being added to the Student Services building, hopefully by the end of the month. In addition, Lynch, Wesson and Leslie believe that a sensitivity training to combat race discrimination would be appropriate.

Finally, BSA plan to have regular meetings with Lynch to talk about safety around campus and the camera process, while also holding a relationship with the MSU community about incidents like this one.

“I just hope these situations dial down, but it won’t dial down until we actually get accountability to help us,” Leslie said.

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