“Something in me that I didn’t know I had.”
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.
Transcript for Active in the Black Student Organization
When I first came on the campus as a freshmen, the group of students that I connected with were all very heavily involved in the Black Student Organization. The BSO brought out something in me that I really didn’t know that I had. The leadership qualities and the things that I learned, then, are things that I utilize now and carry over into my professional life. The people that I’ve met in BSO were very instrumental in helping me develop some qualities in myself as a student so that when I became president of BSO in 1993, I was able to formulate my board, utilize some of the skills that I was taught in my sophomore and my freshmen year, when I first came to campus–to help organize the Black Student Organization during the really troublesome time.
1993 here on campus was probably one of the most trying years for African American students in history, in the history of the university. It all started with Vic Glover, who was fired. And I think he was fired in October of that year. So immediately we had to pull our resources together and we had to organize and operate the MLK center, and keep it functioning. At that point, we had to hire the staff; we had to operate it and make sure the staff got paid. So that was a trying time. So we were really functioning as the Office of Multicultural Affairs at that point. And then later in the year, I believe it was around April, one of the students had some racial slurs carved into his door over in Wehrenberg hall. And at that point also we had another student who had his door set on fire, where some people stuffed paper underneath his door, set the door on fire, set the paper on fire, and really tried to burn him in his room. And at that point the students had had enough. We decided that we wanted to organize, we wanted to hold a rally at the chapel; we had some people speak, myself being one of those speakers. And after the speech, that prompted us to basically storm Kretzmann hall and make demands.
Some of those demands: we just wanted a better campus life. With the Office of Multicultural Affairs being so disconnected from the campus, we wanted to have the Office of Multicultural Affairs moved to the administration buildings. That was one of our requests. We also wanted to have some sort of minority representation on the law enforcement department. We wanted the university to put forth some sort of effort into recruitment of minority students and into the retention of minority students. And then we also wanted them to put some forth… of effort into the hiring of professors. And faculty. To represent more of what we needed as students. We also wanted them to do some upgrading of the Martin Luther King Center because some of the furniture in there was really old and outdated from the seventies.
When you talk about the scrutiny we were under, just staying organized, having a sense of purpose was so important because at any point in time, we felt like funding would be taken away from us; we felt like the MLK center could be taken away from us; we thought, you know, the university could care less whether we stayed here, whether we functioned, whether we got good grades, whether we attended class; just a number, a myriad of things that we felt that we needed to stay on top of in order to be successful as students here at Valparaiso University.