FSU hosts an open discussion about race

Courtesy of Anquinette Taylor

Students gathered in the Florida State University Oglebsy Union February 29 at evening for an open discussion regarding FSU’s 2013 Tau Kappa Epsilon TKE fraternity hazing allegations.

Since the fraternity’s rapid suspension FSU President John Thrasher met with student leaders last Wednesday to accumulate ways to implement an event on campus for students to openly discuss things dealing with diversity or lack thereof.

FSU graduate and academic advisor Ky’esha Penn said this wasn’t the first incident.

“Something like this has happened many times before. We need to talk about how what people say and the actions they do affect people in the long term, the community and the image of Florida State. I think that we can be a little more proactive than we have been,” Penn said.

At the beginning of the event, the students were greeted by the vice president of student affairs Mary C. Coburn, on behalf of Thrasher because could not be in attendance.

The moderators were the associate directors for the Center for Leadership and Social Change Miguel Rodriguez and Amber Hampton.

Hampton said this discussion is intended to engage with students.

“The purpose of tonight is to engage with others, but also get to know them. People should be educated about what’s going on because it’s super important,” Hampton said.

At the beginning of the event the students were asked to sit their phones aside, and separate themselves into groups of people they don’t know and have never met to have those tough conversations.

“We often shy away from conversation that will be hard on us. Instead we go for what’s easy and what’s surface level, instead of connecting with someone and getting a sense of what people care about. If we get a sense of what people cared about then it would start a deeper conversation,” Hampton said.

After the students spent 30 minutes with a student or facilitator and their group members, they were challenged to connect with another group, making the group larger than before.

Once that was done both groups had the opportunity to speak. Groups chose a representative to discuss the things that were brought up in their group discussions.

Rodriguez said the purpose the of group setting is to implement active listening.

“Students will share what each group learned, how they can inspire one another, what they do from here, how they can move the community forward and how to organize a better family bond,” Rodriguez said.

The responses varied as people stood to represent their respective groups.

Some students stood to argue that the event was purposeful, while others would argue that no one will change. Some also argued that there was more dialogue amongst groups when should have been more dialogue as a large group and a panel discussion, where others may agree some people need to just be taught right from wrong rather than expecting them to know.

“As a black student, it’s important to know the history and significance of things in the black culture, and letting those that are not the minority know about the mistake of mocking the issue and showing them the importance of our culture on this campus, and that we equally belong here,” third-year FSU family child science and psychology student Rehema Armorer said.

Questions arose from groups on why the Tau Kappa Epsilon chapter didn’t speak about the acts of their chapter, how vital it was to hear any excess truth about the accusations and how it affected the minority students at the university.

“There are events where some orgs aren’t following the rules or showing a unified front of leadership, and acceptance and non-hazing, but there are groups that follow these rules and do adhere to that type of values,” third-year FSU creative writing student and member of Sigma Iota Alpha Sorority Inc. Chelsee McLean said.

It’s evident that work needs to be done within the FSU community when it comes to diversity.

“I think this is there way of letting minority students on campus know that they are supported, but I know that there is something like this that will happen again. I feel like Florida State can be a little bit more proactive on explaining on what diversity really means,” Penn said.

FSU has programs and internship opportunities on campus to assist with the betterment of the university’s diversity.

“We have over 30 programs that focus on who you are as person, social identity, race, gender, class sex, who you are as leader, how you can become civically engaged. There are programs, and internship programs where students can be involved even after this seminar,” Hampton said.

Students said that in order to see the change it must start with the student body first with having integrity, and doing the right thing when no one is around.

“If you see any racist acts, become that bystander who stops. Be the person who increases the dialogue around friends and family that include diversity, and have people who around that are invested into this,” fourth-year FSU finance student Derrick Scott said.

Hampton said people have to take responsibility.

“We don’t want to use the majority of our times pointing fingers or placing the blame on one another. Assume the best intentions,” Hampton said.