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MSU BSA, NAACP walk out to protest campus discrimination

October 20, 2023
The Black Students Alliance and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organize a protest of racial injustice outside of the Student Services Building at Michigan State University on Oct. 18, 2023.
The Black Students Alliance and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People organize a protest of racial injustice outside of the Student Services Building at Michigan State University on Oct. 18, 2023.

The MSU Black Students’ Alliance, or BSA, along with the MSU National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP, held a walkout to protest and spread awareness of the racial discrimination many Black students face on campus

Participating students met on Wednesday at the multicultural center construction site and marched down Farm Lane to the Student Services Building chanting that they hope for change on campus. 

“I don’t know what you’ve been told, racism is getting old," one chant said

The walkout was in response to recent incidents on campus, including racial slurs being written outside of the Student Services Building in June, students being harassed by their white counterparts on campus and slurs being written in dorm halls

BSA released a statement on Oct. 6 sharing that two Black students had been harassed. One of them had a panic attack due to the stressful situation and the other had to physically defend themselves from the offender while being antagonized, the statement said. 

BSA President Ty’Rianna Leslie said she was notified of another incident in which a student was in the lounge area of a dorm hall when a white student started saying offensive things such as “white is right" and antagonizing them to say a racial slur. Leslie said the student felt very uncomfortable

Kinesiology senior Leslie said she told the students to file complaints with the Office of Institutional Equity, or OIE, as protocol states. She added that the BSA advisor, Jason Worley, also filed a complaint expressing concerns

“Even when we do have these incidents, we talked to everyone else, and we told the administration about these incidents, but for the most part we kind of just got the same answers back,” Leslie said. 

BSA leaders have been meeting with MSU administration, trustees and police to discuss possible solutions, accountability and countermeasures since June

Leslie said that at the time, she and the executive board of BSA thought they had a breakthrough when speaking with the Office of Civil Rights. In a statement on Sept. 19, they said they were disheartened when they received the opposite response they expected.  

According to the statement, the administration discussed the difference between hate crimes and hate speech, concluding that "an action must qualify as a hate crime for any substantial action to be taken, as hate speech is protected under free speech." 

“We must come to the community to report that many of these meetings were not beneficial and lacked the guidance (and) answers we thought we’d receive,” Leslie and BSA Vice President Jordan Wesson said in the statement

As students gathered in the courtyard of the Student Services Building to voice their safety concerns and experiences with discrimination, they expressed that MSU should “get it together.” 

Students were asked to raise their hands if they felt safe on campus. Nobody moved an inch

Criminal justice sophomore Devin Wilson, who gave a speech at the walkout, said that many students, including himself, have been called racial slurs. Wilson said it’s unacceptable that hate speech has become normalized on campus

“What’s sad about this is that when I get called a slur, I’m so angry but I know nothing is going to happen," Wilson said. "If I do something about it, I’m gone … my future is gone. So how am I supposed to feel safe? How am I welcomed? I’m tired man. I’m tired.” 

More students then expressed their impatience with the lack of consequences imposed upon students who discriminate against Black students. Some said they had family members who previously attended MSU that experienced racism, and there weren’t any consequences then either

“The school doesn’t do sh- about it," advertising management junior Bintou Njie said. “All they do is put it on a piece of paper and file it away, and we all are tired of it. Do something about it.” 

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Vice President Wesson, a neuroscience sophomore, said for Black student voices to be heard, they must continue to unite and occupy predominately white spaces. Otherwise, their safety and concerns will continue to be disregarded

“We ask for accountability from the university, and they don’t have an answer," Wesson said. "Why? Because they don’t know what to do. They honestly don’t know how to solve this problem … There’s flaws within the administration themselves. There’s no transparency within the administration, and they don’t communicate.” 

Students also had concerns about the multicultural center, which is currently under construction, regarding space reservation for student groups in the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students, including BSA

Social relations and policy senior Jordan Roebuck explained that the multicultural center was originally established on campus in the Union basement. 

Roebuck said he asked MSU, "how can multiracial students feel like the multicultural center is their homebase when there isn’t a designated space for us to enter into?" 

“The original intent of the multicultural center was for each CORES group to have an office,” Roebuck said. “The multicultural center that is being built now — we (multiracial students) do not have a designated space to meet." 

During her speech, Leslie said BSA has been meeting with administration about the limited space for the CORES groups. Leslie said the group asked for more available offices, but they were denied

Leslie emphasized her role as a Black student leader in her speech, and said there will be more protests in order to be heard

She pointed out a section of MSU's statement on diversity and inclusion that reads: "Our commitment to inclusion means we embrace access to success for all and treat all members of the extended MSU community with fairness and dignity." 

"What I’ll say is how can MSU abide by this when Black students don’t even feel included on campus?” Leslie said in response to MSU's commitment.

She proceeded to ask the students if they felt included. They all immediately said “no.” 

The demonstration ended with students supporting one another by sharing hugs and exchanging contact information

“We do have to stay connected,” Wesson said. “If someone is asking for help, please respond … We have to be family more than ever. We have to keep going, and we gotta keep that momentum pushing.”

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