By Zac Clark
Last week Student Commission voted to award a student group $5000 to create a piece of Kalamazoo College history.
Preceding that vote, a student commissioner who I choose to remain anonymous had this to say regarding about or of another student-created plan for campus improvement:
“The Safe Ride program, and the associated Transportation Innovation plan, should not be funded or addressed because where I am from, I am not told to lock my doors at night. These programs and ideas are based off a skewed perception of black men. We are told to ’stay safe at night’ and ’lock our doors’ because of this perspective. These programs are fundamentally rooted in racism.”
The Transportation Innovation plan was the last to be voted on next to Kolors of K (the painting—the piece of history). It had been debated on for hours, but no commissioner spoke in objection or contention after this comment. Most were silent. Others nodded. Twenty, almost unanimous, votes gave the fund to Kolors of K for their proposed painting afterwards.
Students being given the opportunity to create their permanent image on campus is an amazing feat. But a student commissioner, a student in a position of power, utilized an accusation of racism to achieve this goal.
Peers, partners, and friends of mine living on and near campus have been robbed, mugged, beaten, stabbed, sexually-assaulted, and raped, in their transits to-and-from school. These terrible crimes were committed by people of different races, in an environment with high-crime.
I don’t believe that achieving representation through the belittlement of those victims is a part of that image we want to accept. The fundamental right to be safe should not change.
During the following week’s meeting, after StuComm’s complacency was brought up by Student Commission Fellow Rasheed Hammouda, Commissioner Rian Brown insisted this is a problem to be brought up myself to the commissioner who made the initial comments; personally— not a matter for the Commission. Commissioner Ben Baker, Safe Ride’s brain-trust, had said at the time of the vote his discontent wasn’t appropriate to bring up.
But this does affect all of StuComm, and it is something to be addressed promptly. Commissioners with the responsibility of student representation and fund-allocation, allowed that comment to influence their decision, and thus agreed to the silencing of victims under the pretext of equality. While I believe the commissioner who made the initial comment should hold herself responsible, it is more important that all of those who tacitly agreed to her discourse should take part in a campus-wide discussion on the reasons why they felt student safety is up to interpretation—or why it was allowed to be acceptably interpreted before?