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MSU Black Students' Alliance calls on new president to implement plans addressing racism on campus

March 15, 2024
<p>BSA parliamentarian Jordan Roebuck speaks during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.</p>

BSA parliamentarian Jordan Roebuck speaks during the Board of Trustees meeting in the Hannah Administration Building on Oct. 27, 2023.

Photo by Sonya Barlow | The State News

The Black Students’ Alliance wrote a letter to MSU President Kevin Guskiewicz welcoming him as the new president and expressing hope that his tenure will bring positive change to the community.

The statement, released via social media on March 14, also highlighted the importance of the university working to ensure that Black students' experiences improve following a series of racial harassment incidents on campus. 

“As we celebrate this new chapter for Michigan State University, we are also compelled to address pressing concerns regarding the racial climate on campus,” the statement reads. “We write to you today with a shared goal: to collaborate in improving the lived experience of Black students at MSU and creating a campus where every individual feels valued, respected, and supported.”

BSA proposed several action items for consideration:

  • Increased recruitment and retention efforts to diversify the faculty and administration, specifically hiring and promoting more Black faculty members and administrators.
  • Development of a comprehensive plan to address racism on campus including clear protocols for reporting and addressing such incidents.
  • Creation of safe places and support networks for Black students, including increased access to mental health resources and academic support services.
  • Implementation of a no-hate ordinance to hold those who engage in hate speech accountable and provide a safe space for marginalized students.
  • Creation of a scholarship pool for the recruitment and retention of Black college students.

BSA parliamentarian Jordan Roebuck said the organization hopes to meet with Guskiewicz on his upcoming listening and learning tour across campus, and they expect the organization to be a priority moving forward.

“We expect other groups who represent marginalized students to be prioritized as well,” Roebuck said. “The only way for marginalized and underrepresented students to be heard by the president is through conversation. The president’s job is to serve the community, and we hope that President Guskiewicz will do that for all us marginalized students.” 

The letter also points to an instance in which MSU Faculty Senate chair Jack Lipton called people who were present at the Oct. 27, 2023 Board of Trustees meeting to support then-board chair Vassar a “mob" in a statement published in The Detroit News. 

Following backlash, Lipton apologized for his remarks at a board meeting on Dec. 15, 2023. According to the letter, he also met with the Black Faculty, Staff, and Administrators Association of MSU (BFSAA), and during that meeting, told BFSAA he would meet with students directly. 

BSA reached out to the faculty senate to speak with them, but the process has been “extremely difficult,” according to the letter. 

"This is concerning because Dr. Lipton’s actions since his statement have shown a severe lack of compassion and remorse," the statement reads. "As a board, we believe if the apology was sincere then it would’ve ended with him taking ownership of the harm his statement caused to Black students."

The statement also asks for Lipton to write a public apology and to have a meeting between the faculty senate and BSA.

“You have had months to reach out and have dialogue with us," Roebuck said. "We have remained patient and willing to speak to you. The words you decided to use describing Black students in your position are not acceptable. Take accountability for your actions so that we can move forward and create a better environment for all MSU students.” 

Lipton declined to comment directly on BSA's statement.

Roebuck said the overall experience of reaching out to university officials has been inconsistent.

"It has been difficult getting into contact with people like Dr. Lipton, which is concerning," Roebuck said. "We had issues scheduling a meeting with interim president Teresa Woodruff as well before meeting with her in the fall. Not being able to get into contact with people who represent MSU faculty is concerning."

Roebuck then addressed the Black students of MSU, ensuring that BSA will never stop fighting for them.

“To every Spartan out there, fight for what is right in this world," Roebuck said. "Fight for equality, equity and belonging for everyone. Every Spartan deserves to be treated the same. Join us in the constant fight to ensure a reality where that dream is fulfilled.”

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