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A Voice for Change: Cass LeJeune

As a junior speech communications major with a focus in broadcasting, Cass LeJeune has become a force to be reckoned with on campus. She is the corresponding secretary for BSU (the Black Student Union), as well as a DJ for WIXQ, a SHARP Team tour guide, is working on becoming a Senator for Student Senate, and she also serves on the Orientation Planning Committee. Cass is also the best orientation leader ever (a very objective and totally unbiased statement). But on top of all of this fantastic involvement on campus, Cass has become a vital voice and organizer of activism at Millersville University.

Last semester, she and a friend organized a very successful peaceful protest on the Promenade to raise awareness about some post-election incidents on campus, including harrassment of Muslim and black students. The goal of this protest as she put it was to bring to the attention of the school that “these things are important and nothing’s happened, and some of your students feel unsafe,” as well as “to start the ball [rolling] on a conversation to bring the campus together as a community, because we are all here for a bigger purpose.” 

Cass also shared some of what her experience has been as a black student on campus. She told me how she loves Millersville, which is why she is so passionate in her activism, as she wants everyone to have a great experience here. But that does not mean that life at MU has always been sunshine and rainbows. She recounted how she had been excluded from parties because of her race, and how after organizing the protest last semester, she received a snapchat using racial slurs against her. But she remains optimistic, saying, “I know that that is not an accurate representation of Millersville. And I know that those are people who attend the university, not the university. So I think that has helped me stay here, and to encourage my friends to stay here.” She also cites this outlook as her reasoning for joining admissions, so that she can help increase MU’s retention rate and help other students understand that the hate of some is not the hate of all. “My experiences have been positive and negative, but I choose to focus on the positive, rather than dwell on the negative, because that will eat you alive.” 

But just because it’s important to focus on the positives in life, there are problems that cannot simply be ignored. With the recent issue of photos containing students in black face, Cass expressed that she was extremely upset by what transpired — along with other incidents of hate including the removal of a Muslim student’s hijab, and verbal harassment of black students on campus last semester. But what she said prompted her activism, and the activism of others wasn’t so much this upset, but instead that she didn’t feel shocked or all that surprised that these things were happening. “I was concerned that I wasn’t concerned about what was happening. I was almost expecting it to.” And through her activism, she hopes to build a community where hateful and ignorant actions are shocking and “where we are outraged, because that’s not a representation of us.” 

When asked about what problems she perceives on campus, Cass responded, “I think there’s a huge divide in the community and I think that because its so difficult to talk about, Millersville sometimes skips, and hops, and jumps over it. They kind of try to sweep it under the rug. But I think there’s some tension that has always been there, and I go back to the election because the election was such a milestone for these racial undertones to come out. So I think post-election these things that were always occuring have moved to the front, and have a spotlight over it now. I think that’s one of the biggest problems, is trying to fix the divide, trying to build the bridge, trying to bridge the gap and also I think we have a lot of students who are just unaware. So I think that just to make students aware of what’s happening, because they are a part of this community. Just because this didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. It meansk you should care, because it could happen to your friend, your roommate, your sister, your brother, whatever the case may be, we should all know whats happening to each other. I think that’s the problem, we all need to know what’s happening, and there’s this racial divide we need to fix.”

In order to make these changes and fix this divide, Cass encourages students to step out of their comfort zone. “In orientation we always say, ‘Lean into discomfort. And that just means that you’re going to be uncomfortable, life is uncomfortable, you’re going to go through uncomfortable things, but its how you handle those situations.'”

She wants other students to “put themselves in situations where they are uncomfortable and try to figure out ways to spin it where they learn something and can take it through life.” Cass also promotes the importance of being engaged with diverse groups on campus through events run by BSU, SOLA, Allies, and other student organizations committed to diversity. She also encourages joining Student Senate to be more informed and diversify the campus. She described these opportunities as, “your platform to speak and to learn,” and emphasized that, if we continue to live in our own personal bubble and pretend that things aren’t happening and that there isn’t a problem, then this will always be a problem.” 

Perhaps what makes her such an effective activist is her perception of these problems, and how she goes about tackling problems. Her motto is “If I can make a situation better for somebody else, then I’m going to try. Just because it might be awful for me right now, doesn’t mean that it has to be awful for those who come in after I leave.” And she implores that people keep going, keep moving towards progress. “We have to continue with the mindset that we are reaching a goal which is to create a better community, a safer community, a more inclusive community.” As long as students continue to engage and get involved, Cass believes that we can more easily make the necessary changes and transitions into the Millersville we want to be.

Fun Fact: 

Cass’s favorite thing to do on campus is to hang out in the SMC and the CSIL circle. She has gotten to meet a lot of great people, and great activists. And its been a great chance to meet people from a diverse set of organizations who are headquartered in the CSIL circle. So come and say hi!

Cass is also helping to organize a candlelight protest on Monday evening in solidarity with those are hurt and feel unsafe or uncomfortable on campus after these hateful and ignorant events. This will directly follow the townhall and forum being held by Vice President Hanslet on Monday. 

All are encouraged to attend both events.

 I'm currently a junior at Millersville University with a major in International Studies and German and a minor in Government and Political Affairs. Outside of Her Campus I am invovled with Student Government, Society for International Human Rights, and German Club. When I somehow miraculously have free time I usually spend it being a total geek: gaming, watching youtube, watching netflix, you get the gist. Besides all that I also enjoy being creative in a variety of mediums as well as ice skating. I'm looking forward to the next few years at MU and I can't wait to see where it will all take me!
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