I wouldn’t be doing my job right if I wrote to the Class of 2021 that Elon University is as perfect as the brochures they'll see all weekend.

I know it’s not true. So do other students. So does faculty. If I said anything different, it wouldn’t be true.

And my mom did not raise a liar. 

As the editor of The Pendulum, it’s my job to direct coverage of reported stories grounded in factual analysis. And on the rare occasion I voice my opinion from this pulpit, it will mimic that.

And if we’re being honest with ourselves, the irrefutable fact is this: Elon is in the midst of a racial identity crisis.

But how will the Class of 2021 fix this? I'm challenging them to prove me wrong.

From top to bottom, the place these wide-eyed freshmen now call home is searching for what it stands for. As the nation grapples with how to address racial issues, Elon is, too. SGA Executive President Morgan Bodenarain said the events of Charlottesville, Va., "easily could have happened here."

And based on the current climate of our school, I think she's right.

The university's eight-pronged 10 year strategic plan boasts 90 percent completion. And while I commend this work, we need to peel the layers in one particular aspect.

A skeleton rests underneath the crimson bricks and lush green grass.

Diversity — one of the plans pillars — increased 50 percent since 2010. From 2013-2017, minority admitted students spiked from 13 percent to 19 percent. But many of them don’t feel like they're welcome.

The paragraphs oozing fear, anger and frustration from my Facebook and GroupMe feeds during the first week of May are all the proof I need.

Metaphorically, black students wiped spit off their faces when news broke of a white fraternity president uttering a racial slur about a black student and when a white student stood on a historically black fraternity's plot.

It makes no sense to increase the number of ethnic students past 20 percent if  white students will treat them poorly. Two racist incidents in the same week landed a devastating blow to the morale of minority students. I know because I'm one of them. It scares me to think about what could happen if another incident happened relatively soon.

As I said before, every white student isn't at fault. But it's every white student's responsibility — especially freshmen — to be accountable and learn a different perspective through the opportunities presented to them — like attending a panel discussion about Charlottesville Sept.5 at Whitley Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. It's the only way to fix this.

And as I said before, Elon can't label itself the inclusive campus it desperately wants to be until then. It's wishful, hypocritical thinking.

But Elon's position isn't bleak. There isn't an organization in corporate America without kinks, and Elon isn't exempt. But the good outweighs the bad.

As Bodenarain said, "Every campus in America is at a standstill" addressing these issues.  But in terms of leadership, Elon's track record is commendable.

When two racist incidents happened in 2011, Elon's senior staff and SGA overwhelmingly responded with the "Not on Our Campus" campaign. When a Hispanic student satirically wrote "Bye Bye Latinos" on a white board after President Donald Trump's election victory, Elon President Leo Lambert called the act "reprehensible."

As a minority student, those examples show me Elon acknowledges and wants to sternly address the problem. And in my four semesters here, this school gave me more opportunities and lifelong friends than I expected. I can't see myself elsewhere. And if that can happen for me, it can easily happen for this new freshman crop. I love this school because the periods of growth it put me in molded me into a better man.

And that gives me all the more reason to gaze at it through a critical lens to make it better. Putting lipstick on the problem with strongly worded statements won't solve it. Onus falls on the students to carve action and change from those statements. 

Elon will announce it's new president this year and this freshman class will be intertwined with whomever it is. Inclusion is chief among the problems awaiting the next person in office.

But as the presidential search committee skims through resumes, freshmen can get a head start in helping Elon become the campus it desperately craves.

Be open to ideas. Talk to people who look different than you. And most importantly, take initiative to learn and ask questions before assuming. Everyone is guilty, including myself, for somehow lacking in these areas. We can change that. And freshmen can lead the charge.

As Elon continues to assess its climate, my charge to freshmen is to set a standard of accountability. Don't use "I'm too young" or "I didn't know," as an excuse to do something irresponsible or not do anything at all to change the pulse of our campus. Be bold. You only get one shot at your freshmen year of college, and it would be great if this year's class altered the negative momentum Elon experienced this spring.


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