The State of the Black Student Body Address

January 20, 2016, Auburn’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Harold A. Franklin Society (HAFS) partnered with the Black Student Union (BSU) to host a State of the Black Student Body Address.

It was the first of its kind to be introduced to Auburn’s campus. The purpose of the address was to assess the state of diversity of the plains. The address was led by a previous Campus Celebrity, Josh Cass. Multiple topics were brought up pertaining to racism, graduation rates, diverse faculty and staff assistance, offensive social media quotes and much more.

Josh Cass gathered information that was not at all shocking to diverse students but all too real on paper.

Facts like minority students making up less than 20% of the student body and retention rates drastically dropping are in correlation to the lack of representation and acceptance on campus. But there weren’t just statistics, this address was a means of discussing the problem and bringing forth solutions. A focused panel discussion was held immediately following the presentation of facts.

From left to right: Bre’a Hilliard, Aaron Jordan, Josh Cass, Benjamin Baker, and Erica Rutledge.

 

The audience was free to pose questions to the panel. Along with these questions, students brought up campus experiences that they felt needed to be discussed. Incidents, whether they were on social media or in the real world, that made students feel offended, out of place, or disrespected.  A list of solutions were presented with detailed plans of action.

After the address, students were eager to talk about the solutions and the positive effect this event had on their knowledge of diversity and racism.

“Some of the uneasiness that black students experience on campus can be linked to white students simply never having or having limited exposure to interacting with black people. White students then rely solely on preconceived notions based on media and few experiences of their own.  In this case, the micro aggressions displayed are only because they're not aware, and not because they're doing it out of hate. I believe that the only cure to ignorance is knowledge. Individuals that attended the address certainly gained knowledge about some of the issues, which increases net awareness for the campus.” –Khalil Johnson, Senior

“I think the address was much needed. It was important to see where we are and to see what we can work on to progressively grow over the years.” –Tiensae Teshome, Sophomore

If you missed this event, do not worry! This will not be the last address. It was the first step in trying to bring students together. Honest and open discussion was encouraged and no one was there to cast the blame on either side of the spectrum. Hopes for the next address will be to have more representation from all races on campus, so that the discussion is equal and solutions can effectively be worked through.