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Resolution to Rename Kelly Commons Gains Traction

by, Sophia Sakellariou, Senior Writer

In the wake of recent police brutality against people of color, Manhattan College students have made strides towards changing the name of the Raymond W. Kelly ‘63 Student Commons Building to better align with the institution’s Lasallian values, drafting a resolution outlining why they deem it necessary to do so.

Built in 2014, the building stands tall at the intersection between the College’s North and South campus, serving as a symbol of connection and community that college life brings. Home to the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center, the Multicultural Center, the Club Room and Fitness Center, Kelly Commons has provided a place for students to make valuable connections and further their learning experience.

However, students have taken a step back and assessed the meaning of the name behind this building and how it aligns with Lasallian values, the latter to which they deemed it doesn’t.

“I don’t see how someone like this can have a prominent building on campus that houses our Social Action Suite, Multicultural Center and a place of rest for all of our students,” said Daniel Aguirre De Araujo, a 2020 grad program graduate and co-author of the resolution.

Dedicated to Raymond W. Kelly ‘63, the name honors the former police commissioner and alum. Kelly was the longest serving commissioner in the history of the New York Police Department and the first to serve two separate tenures, making him a well-known and highly esteemed leader in law enforcement. It is not these accolades that students at Manhattan have an issue with, but his enforcement of the stop-and-frisk policy during his second tenure from 2002 to 2013 under Mayor Bloomberg.

The controversial program defined Michael Bloomberg’s policing as mayor of New York City which was brought to the surface and scrutinized during his presidential campaign. According to a New York Times article, police officers stopped and questioned suspected criminals more than five million times during his tenure, the majority of whom were young Black and Latino men. In 2009, Black and Latino residents of New York were nine times more likely to be stopped than white residents. These searches rarely materialized in the weapons officers were searching for.

Kelly fiercely defended the effectiveness of the policy alongside Bloomberg in the face of criticism. They argued that stop-and-frisk was an essential police tactic, the halting of which would lead to increased crime rates. This proved to be untrue. Only 14 out of every 10,000 stops conducted during Bloomberg’s tenure resulted in a gun and only 1,200 out of every 10,000 resulted in an arrest.

“We feel as though the current name of the student commons building does not reflect our Lasallian Mission- specifically that of Inclusive Community and Respect For All People,” said Ireland Twiggs, a senior peace and justice studies major who contributed to the drafting of the resolution.

“Since I was a freshman on campus, I have heard rumors of the controversy surrounding the naming of Kelly Commons and a push to change it. In the wake of recent events in our nation, it caused me personally to do more research on our nation and college’s history. It was then that I was approached by Rabea Ali, Liam Moran, and Dan Aguirre about co-authoring a resolution on renaming the Raymond W. Kelly ‘63 Student Commons,” Twiggs said.

Several students cited social media as their main source of information on the policy and Kelly’s past with it. An influx of posts drawing attention to and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have brought racial inequalities to their attention, prompting action.

“Social media has played a vital role in the spread of information during this civil rights movement and I believe that it is a powerful tool that activists have used to help educate large audiences,” said Nicole Nuñez, a senior international studies major.

Nuñez found out about the resolution “through an anonymous students Instagram page,” and saw many more students and alum sharing it on their accounts, as well. The resolution has over 600 signatures from students and alumni and over 50 from faculty members.

“I signed the resolution because I will not stand idle while I watch the college that I love idolize a person who has ruined the lives of many people of color due to his own racist ideas,” said Nuñez. The policy that Raymond Kelly pushed was racially charged and disproportionately targeted people of color.”

Signing the resolution is just one way students have become involved in today’s racial and social movements.

“Petitions, donations, educating ourselves, and protests are just some of the main ways
people are fighting for this,” Aguirre said. “I believe that it is our job to support in any which way we can. This is to ensure we can start rebuilding our society and legislation to truly develop an area of inclusivity and equality for all. All lives don’t matter until Black Lives do, too.”

“I hope that the Administration at Manhattan College can see that we are trying to ensure that we reflect the necessary changes that must be made to promote inclusivity,” Aguirre said. “We do not wish to cancel Kelly, but perhaps be more mindful of his past actions.”

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