by, Katie Heneghan & Samantha Walla, Web Editor & Production Manager
On June 12, the members of the Black Student Union took to Instagram with a list of demands addressed to President Brennan O’Donnell and the college’s administration. In its introduction, the letter listed its intent and purpose as “improving the social and academic experiences of its black students at Manhattan College.”
The demands included: a black excellence mural on campus, a dedicated space for the club, funding, mentoring programs for students of color, more black student workers, using orientation as a tool to discuss standards of diversity and inclusion, academic networking for students of color, and increase in students and faculty of color, diversity training and more discussions between students of color and administration.
Additionally, the club called for the implementation of the “Action Plan.” The post stated that the Action Plan’s purpose is to be used as “A protocol for dealing with issues of hate, discrimination, and unjust treatment, action or comments.”
“In this current climate of uncertainty, we wanted to make one thing certain; that Manhattan College is not just a campus, but a community,” Ashley Baptise, vice president of the Black Student Union told the Quadrangle via email. “As The Black Student Union, we wanted to create a space of unity, inclusion, and diversity in a world that is so divided. The list of demands that was issued earlier this summer is a reflection of how tired we were of being swept under the rug, as students and as active members of society.”
The BSU first came to the attention of John Bennett, Executive Director of Student Engagement, two years ago. Although they have been active, their campus presence became even stronger after the BSU Bash, which took place earlier in 2020.
“After the BSU Bash last semester, which was one of the most successful and highly attended events on campus last year, they really began to formalize the process with our office and Student Government,” said Bennett. “[The BSU was] on the track and pace last year to become recognized as a club, going through the steps, when COVID really hit and we ended up going remote. Over the summer they became officially recognized by Student Government.”
The recognition from Student Engagement was crucial for the club in beginning to recognize their demands, including a budget allocation amid a year of financial cuts.
“This year, especially with it being a different type of year and so many students are remote learning, there is a new process to have a group recognized on campus, which was implemented with the help of Student Government to really help students start groups or find new peers that are also interested in the same things together,” Bennett said.
Junior International Studies Major and President of the Black Student Union, Mamady Deen Ballo, was a pivotal player in the demands brought to administration attention. Ballo worked closely with alumni Pauly Paulicap, former President of the BSU.
Ballo envisioned what campus would look like had they received tools from the college to make things better for students of color.
“All of the demands were quite important, however, the importance in my opinion was the allocation of funds for the BSU, black excellence mural and scholarships for students of color,” said Ballo.
Despite collaboration with President Brennan O’Donnell, Ballo feels like there is more work to be done.
“We are being heard, but actions speak louder than words. I’m somewhat pleased, but not satisfied. I feel as if more things can be done and should be done,” said Ballo.
As a result of a meeting with O’Donnell, some of the demands have been met. Baptise agrees that more work needs to be done, but in terms of successes, the BSU has had strides towards their goals.
“I am appreciative of the demands that were adhered to by administration and faculty members,” Baptiste said. “For instance, the recognition of BSU as an official club, the allocation of $10,000 as our yearly budget, and we are currently in the works of creating a ‘Black Excellence Mural.’ Even though some of our demands were brought to fruition, there are still a few that we are waiting to see happen. For the future, we are expecting to see visible change. As students and members of this community, we want to be able to walk on campus and feel a sense of belonging. I would like to see greater accountability from administration, as well as a greater platform for students to speak upon their concerns.”
The Black Student Union continues to navigate programming amid COVID-19 regulations, most recently co-sponsoring and hosting a virtual lecture with Student Engagement featuring Rebecca Skloot. They can be reached on Instagram @mc.bsu.