Nearly two dozen students barred themselves against freezing winds in the shadow of the Haggerty Administration Building on Tuesday, rallying in protest against SUNY New Paltz administration’s handling of the recent racial incidents on campus.
Directing their voices up toward the administrative offices, ralliers chanted “No justice, no peace,” while holding signs reading “We are Emmett Till” and “Black lives matter,” drawing the attention of faculty and students entering the building.
“We want to let administration know that Emmett Till did not deserve to die,” fourth-year Black studies and sociology major Joevenelly Peralta said via megaphone. “We will not stop until something is done.”
Third-year Black Studies and political science major Jordan Taylor, one of the rally’s organizers, said the event’s purpose was to have students come together to discuss their experiences with the racial climate on campus. Members of the rally shared personal anecdotes and opinions, with some members expressing themselves through slam poetry readings.
“These incidents, or what administration calls incidents, is actually an ongoing pattern that has been plaguing the system for years,” Peralta said. “We don’t want [the Emmett Till racial incident] to be swept under the rug like it has in the past.”
Peralta said that by organizing and having concerned student’s voices heard, pressure will be put on the college to administer change so that the campus environment will be made safer for minority students in the future.
“Administration say it’s [campus racial climate] improving, but it’s obvious that it’s not,” Peratla said. “We want to spread the word on campus and make people aware of these issues.”
Among the demonstrators was second-year geochemistry major Ryan Baker-Urzva, who said he attended the rally to stand in solidarity with students of color.
Baker-Urzva is white, making him “part of the privileged,” he said.
Baker-Urzva said he believed there to be “a lot” of racism on campus and hoped that this and subsequent rallies would see results from the college, noting that administration tended to be “lacksadaisical with a lot of things.”
Taylor said the rally will help to support a request to administration for a racial campus climate survey that will document people of color’s satisfaction with their cultural needs on campus, similarly to the LGBTQ campus climate survey which led to the creation of the LGBTQ task force.
“[The survey] hopefully will call for a Racial Climate Task force, along with other goals that we will go through the respective channels for, since the administration is not directly responsible for everything on this campus,” Taylor said. “Different operations on this campus are controlled by different institutions, so we must take on each goal accordingly.”