Michelle Uche (left) holds sign in direction of The Daily Texan Managing Editor Audrey White during a protest against the publication of the controversial Trayvon Martin editorial cartoon.
Last week student leaders from several universities such as UT-Austin were invited to participate in a digital town hall to discuss how the Trayvon Martin incident effected their campus, as well as issues of racial diversity in schools.
Although it’s been two months since the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the controversial incident shows no signs of leaving the minds of the American people as further stories of potential racial profiling and racism continue to emerge in the media.
However, what does fail to be reported is how sensitive issues such as racism and discrimination effect today’s college campuses. To remedy this, Enfluential founder Lawrence Adjah hosted a digital town hall with student leaders from universities around the nation to discuss Trayvon Martin’s death and the implications it brings.
“Part of the reason we’re having this discussion is because people are still having it,” said Adjah. “It is inherently important when people are still talking about it. Secondly, it’s not just the discussion but who is having it. Most dialogue is from the media’s perspective. There are not enough words and voices heard from young people and how it’s impacting their campuses.”
The discussion, titled “Seeking Truth and Justice: What Does It Really Come Down to?” took place on last Wednesday with students from schools such as Howard University, University of Texas at Austin, Harvard College, Stanford University and all of the University of California campuses.
Adjah, a graduate school alum of UT-Austin, reached out to their campus in particular after their school newspaper published a controversial editorial cartoon regarding Trayvon Martin, which lead to a protest leading to the firing of the cartoon’s author.
Additionally, Ashley Hall, a UT-Austin student and board member of the Diversity and Equity Student Advisory and Action Council, said that the newspaper’s cartoon isn’t the only incident of racism on campus.
“UT has had a whole history of problems with race and discrimination on campus that continues into today,” Hall said. “Professors and students still use racial slurs, the number of black students accepted to UT is ridiculously low, and Greek life in particular perpetuates race issues via inappropriately-themed parties and Roundup.”
Roundup is an annual event that draws thousands of students to a weekend of frat-hosted parties that began eighty years ago and has been the most anticipated event of UT-Austin’s spring semester since. Last year, a female student claimed she was the victim of a racially motivated attack at one of the Roundup parties although no racial slurs were used.
However, based on research conducted by Choquette Hamilton, director of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, racial tension between fraternity members and minority students frequently occurred, with at least five Roundup parades between 1980 and 1990 openly mocking and harassing minorities.
Hamilton’s research also showed that although UT-Austin was desegregated in 1959, only 3.7 percent of the university’s approximately 48,000 students were black in 1990. According to a 2010 university survey, that percentage has only slightly increased to 4.5 percent of UT-Austin’s 50,000 students. Despite these low numbers, College Prowler gave the university an “A-“ in diversity.
UT-Austin isn’t the only school dealing with race though. In 2010, officials at University of California San Diego condemned a ghetto-themed fraternity party that was organized to mock Black History Month. Then last year, over 200 students and faculty members at the University of Pennsylvania dressed in black and joined hands in a silent protest against racism in response to a student’s run-in with racial discrimination.
These instances are just a few of the many that students have reflected on during the discourse of the Trayvon Martin incident. Adjah hopes though that Enfluential’s digital town halls will take important discussion regarding issues such as this above the hub of students’ campuses.