On April 20, Derek Chauvin’s trial ended in conviction on all accounts. This trial held international spotlight as conversations around systemic racism were brought to the foreground, even at Emporia State.
“A lot of our students of color and students who are underrepresented were really thrilled to see the verdict that came from the trial, but I think there is still a lot to be done,” said Amaya Oshel, senior sociology major and current Associated Student Government Vice-President. “I hope that ESU, as a predominantly white institution, doesn’t take that one thing as total victory and stop fighting.”
Graduating next week, Oshel said the university has a great opportunity before them to engage students like never before.
“I think the university could be doing more with the way they respond and give students safe spaces to talk,” Oshel said. “I think the conversations that faculty and staff are having are great. The open forums and humanity first forums that doctor (Aswad) Allen (Chief Diversity Officer) put on last semester were great, but I hope that we can continue those. I hope that as students come back in person after COVID there are more events and discussions around issues like this from ESU beyond putting out statements. I think statements are great, but being proactive and showing how you are involved goes a long way for minorities on campus.”
Incoming ASG vice-president Lauren Moon, sophomore biology major, said that this last year has shown how important diversity training can be on predominantly white campuses like ESU.
“For Lucy (Steyer) and I, one of our big platforms, especially with how this year has gone, is diversity and inclusion,” Moon said. “I think that spreading the information about this trial and what happened with Black Lives Matter throughout this year is super important as we enter this next year.”
While trials of former police officers like Chauvin’s and Hankison’s have occurred during the backdrop of a global pandemic, Moon said that this moment in history offers a lot to learn from.
“Even though the trial has closed, we need to make sure students continue to educate themselves on what’s going on in the news and what’s going on with Black Lives Matter in general,” Moon said. “For our students who are black we need to give them the opportunities to talk and share their cultures. We need to make sure we are allies and make that happen. Students need to have the chance to seek and learn about these topics.”
Steyer, junior political science major and next president of ASG, said that part of their plans for promoting diversity include making such training for Registered Student Organizations and Resident Assistants mandatory.
“College is a place where there aren’t a lot of consequences for learning and asking questions,” Steyer said. “Within our various organizations Lauren and I have both had diversity training and we want to make that a requirement for all organizations on campus. Even if it's just the introductory stuff I think that it can make a real difference.
Steyer said that moving forward it is important that students are proactive and not only reactive to acts of racial violence around them. As a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Steyer said that for Greek-Life students this includes speaking up against racism, especially when it's uncomfortable.
“There has to be an acknowledgment of privilege because Greek Life has such strong white roots in it's traditions anyway,” Steyer said. “I don't think there is a single solution but part of it has to be educating each other about bias and the things we say. Our intentions can often be very different than their impacts...little things can spiral out of control and have big consequences when none of us step up to confront it.”