The past year was not an easy one for Elon University. After repeated bias-caused incidents challenged Elon’s goal of creating an open and safe environment, the community made considerable progress toward finding solutions that would benefit all.
It would be a shame to let that progress stagnate.
Instead, the Elon community must continue to have difficult conversations and face uncomfortable situations to further the steps already taken toward creating a truly inclusive community.
Repeated incidents of racial bias resulted in protests both in December and the spring. A student’s suicide led to campus-wide discussions of mental health. When The Oak House was threatened by university plans for development, faculty, staff and students led a grassroots protest. And repeated hazing incidents led to the suspension of two Inter-Fraternity Council chapters by their respective national organizations.
These events threatened students — marginalized or otherwise — and by extension the inclusive environment Elon has been working so hard to build.
These issues aren’t uncommon. They’re not even new to Elon. But the 2014-2015 school year was different because, when serious and recurring problems — including, but certainly not limited to, racial bias — reappeared, they weren’t responded to and then forgotten.
The Elon community refused to allow repeated problems to fade away until the next incident brought them forward again. To prevent the spread of harmful biases into this new year and beyond, it must continue to do so, as people involved in the continuous efforts to fight racial bias on campus have demonstrated.
SGA, the Truitt Center and the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, along with other organizations, worked together to orchestrate a Rally and March for Respect and Racial Equality that took place in mid-May. The Rally allowed students to urge their peers to take responsibility for preventing bias and to call them to action.
In the most recent incident of racial bias, which took place last April, a black female student was verbally assaulted with a racial slur from a passing car. Two days later, a powerfully worded message from President Leo Lambert expressed his disappointment and urged students to “foster a more welcoming and caring environment in which everyone can flourish, not simply endure.”
Understandably, many students shared Lambert’s frustration, considering the April incident was nearly identical to a late-January incident, and these both mirrored a series of expressions of bias that have been a persistent problem for years, since at least 2011, when another verbal altercation involving racial bias took place. But the Rally served as a clarion call that recognized the persistence of this issue and announced the community’s determination to end it.
The key to defeating the biases behind these social issues is persistence, something the Elon community truly put into practice last year, and something they must continue to push for in the years ahead.
The ball has already begun to roll. Now, the task is to maintain its momentum.