Daily Egyptian

Campus leaders meet to discuss violence at black events, racism on campus

By Tierra Carpenter, @Tierramc_

A group of the campus’ black student leaders met Wednesday to discuss ways to cut down violence at SIU’s predominantly black events. 

Michael Smith, a senior from Chicago studying political science, organized a meeting with about a dozen of his peers to discuss solutions following fights and a shooting at events over the last few semesters.

Smith, president of Black Male Roundtable — a registered student organization designed to give African-American males the opportunity to congregate in a safe place — said the violence at these events has remained unaddressed and he sees it as his responsibility to bring the issue to light. He said there are almost eight large events coming up that could potentially become violent.

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He said these events include Greek-sponsored gatherings such as Stroll like an Iota, Kappa Karnival, Stroll like a Kappa, Kappa Klassic, Players Ball, March of Dimes, the Lil Bibby and Lil Herb concert and a possible variety show. 

During the meeting Smith suggested he and the other campus leaders help police these events.

“Students themselves have certain knowledge of other students our age or non-students our age, we see certain things that administrators might not see or we see certain things that police officers might not see, and we also know certain things,” he said. “I feel as though that since we do possess that knowledge, and we have a certain ability in order to prevent things from happening.”

Jasmine Easter, a senior from Country Club Hills studying psychology, said she doesn’t attend most of these gatherings because of her age and the possibility of violence.

“As leaders on this campus … we do self-police in our own situations,” said Easter, president of the Association of Black Psychologists. “That’s something that’s great in itself, but I don’t think the responsibility is on every organization to self-police every event, because me personally, I don’t go out every weekend. I don’t go to these events. I’m not going to start to go just to self-police.”

Smith, who said he will continue to attend black-led events, he wants other campus leaders to be observant and to verbally defuse situations before they escalate.

Most of his peers at the meeting were not receptive to the idea — saying they lack training and fear putting themselves in harm’s way.

However, Smith said he will still take it upon himself to be more vigilant and say something to those in authority, if needed. 

Other students proposed checking people at the door for weapons and hosting opportunities for students to learn more about the results of violence and how it affects the reputation of minorities on campus. 

“You can pat people down at the door and let them in, but you can’t stop them from bringing a gun outside,” Smith said. “As far as the event that goes on inside, you also can’t stop a fight that happens just because you patted people down. There needs to be extra steps taken.”

Creyana Towner, a sophomore from Chicago studying accounting, said the solutions to the issue need to be more thought out.

“We should come up with a solution to how we can prevent some of these problems,” said Towner, a member of the National Association of Black Accountants. “Sometimes it’s not in our control. People coming from other schools are bringing violence to us, then it’s making our reputation look bad. Then they want to decrease the black acceptance rate into SIU, and it shouldn’t be like that because we’re also here to get an education, and we want to be successful just like everyone else.”

Towner’s point can be applied to a shooting at a party that killed 41-year-old Tim Beaty in March. None of the four suspects in the case were SIU students and three of them attended Southeast Missouri State University. 

Smith said a downfall of the meeting was that most of the people present were not part of the organizations that host events likely to result in violence. 

“I am going to take the extra step to reach out to certain representatives of those organizations, but if they aren’t receptive to the idea either, then that’s as far as I can personally go,” Smith said.

Towner said she did not initially come to the meeting to talk about the violence at black events.

Instead, she came to talk about racial incidents that occurred Monday at Brown hall where she lives. Leilani Bartlett, a freshman from Chicago studying business, said she was the victim of racism by white students, who used racial slurs and stereotypes during an argument. She posted a video on Facebook that has been shared more 3,100 times and has more than 69,000 views. The Daily Egyptian is arranging a meeting with Bartlett and the involved parties to further discuss the incident. 

Many other students were also concerned with racist events on West Campus and the conversation consumed most of the meeting.

Smith said he didn’t mind the subject change because he invited Bartlett to use the meeting as a platform to tell more students about her experience.

“There is a certain feeling in the air when things that used to go unspoken of, such as bigotry-related incidents, are now being spoken of and are now being discussed and looked at,” he said. “But they weren’t really being looked at before this young lady took to Facebook and recorded a video recounting her view of the incident that just occurred.”

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