On June 22, ASILI, the Black Student Alliance at Rose Hill, released a list of 11 anti-racist demands that was shared widely by many cultural clubs and individuals, propelling a coordinated student-led campaign to hold Fordham accountable. A week later, Fordham released a statement that promised to address these concerns — however, it only revealed their unwillingness to truly engage with the issues and actually start a dialogue with students.
Despite claiming to “have read the many emails, petitions, and Instagram posts that have come from the University community,” Fordham only met three of these widely shared demands, and six were left completely unaddressed, prompting immediate criticism from students. Among the concerns Fordham deemed too unimportant to confront were its ties to organizations that have a history of racism, like Aramark and the NYPD. ASILI represents but one focal point of a larger student movement calling for these changes; for Fordham to ignore students’ voices on these topics while claiming to hear them is simply disrespectful.
Multiple personal testimonies have made it clear that any attempt to “create a more welcoming and affirming campus” will be useless if it does not tackle the serious issues with Fordham’s handling of reports of injustice on campus. Fordham’s failings to address these issues have led to a lack of trust within a student body that is hesitant to report and often ignored when they do. Through accounts like @blackatfordham and @letstalkaboutitfordham, many students and alumni have come forward with allegations of professors using the N-word, administrators not taking sexual assault reports seriously and university faculty creating a hostile environment where Black students have faced serious obstacles to learning — yet Fordham completely disregarded these voices in its statement.
Until Fordham holds itself accountable for the safety and security of its Black students, its claims to be anti-racist are mere lip service — efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus are meaningless without proactive initiatives to respond to all reports of harassment and hate. That means committing to swift and thorough investigations of faculty, staff and even students who have been accused of being anti-Black, as well as sanctions against those credibly found to be racist, including termination. When it comes to the professors and administrators who are charged with helping students build their futures, tenure should not be a free pass for prejudice.
Between the remainder of ASILI’s demands, the incidents shared on @blackatfordham and @letstalkaboutitfordham, and the #LookUpStepDown campaign calling for white Board of Trustees members to step down in order to open up spots for more people of color, Fordham still has a lot of work to do. It is up to the university’s leaders to engage in conversations about campus culture and discrimination — conversations which students have been trying to initiate for years now.
We acknowledge that Fordham has taken a step forward in terms of racial awareness and advocacy, and that three of 11 demands fulfilled are better than none. Mandatory anti-racist training, the growth of both the Black and Latinx student population, and the creation of a designated multicultural center are all necessary and long-awaited initiatives that the university has promised to implement. It is clear, however, that Fordham still has a long way to go, and the proposed action plan should only be the beginning of a much, much larger dialogue with students on racial issues at Fordham. In order to build an anti-racist environment, Fordham needs to listen to the voices of its students who have direct experience with racial injustices and seek to change accordingly. Flat-out ignoring the majority of students’ concerns in favor of the easiest changes and refusing to even open a dialogue on multiple serious issues gives the impression that Fordham is more concerned about smoothing over unrest than actually addressing its own systemic problems.
In most staff editorials, we include a call to action for students to get involved with the issue being discussed. In this case, we won’t, because The Observer believes students have already done more than enough. ASILI held meetings and formulated demands that were — and are — widely backed by the student body, individual students emailed administrators, and current students and alumni shared countless experiences on social media, tagging the university and demanding to be acknowledged. Black students in particular have devoted time, effort and emotional energy to the cause, even reliving past traumas, in order to educate their own educators. Now, we call on the Fordham administration to take notice and step up. Will you continue to ignore the concerns of the student body and pursue your own, more convenient interests? Or will you sit at the table with us and hear our voice?