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Students lead movement to counter on-campus bigotry

The Anti-Racism Movement kicked off its action week Monday with a community discussion on racism and discrimination at Loyola in CFSU. The group has been distributing bright green armbands throughout the week as a sign of solidarity with the cause.

“This is not a stereotypical college activism group,” freshman Erica Granados-De La Rosa said. “This is a movement for change.”

A.R.M. is made up of a group of students committed to ending the racism and discrimination that minority students deal with on a regular basis. As a non-official student group that doesn’t receive funding from the Student Activities Fund, A.R.M. was formed after an incident that occurred over Labor Day weekend last semester in which a Loyola campus safety officer allegedly profiled a group of minority students as “gangbangers.”

“What we’re trying to do goes far beyond Labor Day weekend,” said junior Omar Kamran, another founding member. “We don’t need something like a noose to be hung on someone’s door for us to make something happen.”

“The fact is that people aren’t noticing that the simple things we have to go through in our daily life are the problem,” Granados-De La Rosa said, citing stereotypes minorities often face.

Granados-De La Rosa said that the racial community at Loyola is divided. “It is an obstacle that we’ve been working against since the beginning,” she said. “We are attempting to bring racial consciousness to the minority students here on campus.”

She and Kamran both feel that the department of student diversity perpetuates this division.

“In my opinion the department doesn’t want us to do anything that would result in change,” Kamran said. “They don’t want us to do anything that goes beyond celebrating our culture and eating our food and playing our music. And that is a reflection of the ideologies of the upper administration.”

Kevin Huie, director of the office of student diversity and multicultural affairs, said that he always supports the students but is unsure about what A.R.M. is trying to accomplish.

Huie said he does not think there is a clash or divide between the student group and the administration.

“We support the students and what they’re trying to do,” he said. Huie explained that because no full-time staff members of the OSD are students, the office should not “be taking part in a student movement.”

Huie did say that while racial discrimination “definitely” occurs on campus, “We shouldn’t tolerate it.”

The event on Monday began with Granados-De La Rosa, junior Glenance Green and Kamran introducing themselves and A.R.M. and was followed by a discussion given by David Embrick, Ph.D., assistant professor of sociology, who teaches a course on race and ethnicity. These initial speeches were followed by student testimonials, some of which were prepared beforehand, and others were spontaneous. Anonymous testimonials were also read.

“The point of these are to illustrate that these are little things that add up to a bigger issue,” Granados-De La Rosa said. “The fact that some of these testimonials are anonymous is a problem. Students are living in fear.”

Students shared stories of racial discrimination and profiling, many of which involved campus safety officers.

“How should I feel safe or why should I feel safe if the security guards are against me?” sophomore Shykira Richards, a minority student, said.

Senior Quintin Roper, also a minority student, described discrimination within the theater department regarding casting. Roper said that his roles at Loyola have included racially stereotypical parts such as a voodoo priest and a criminal.

“This year, I have seen the least amount of minority casting at Loyola of all my time here,” he said.

Issues of religious discrimination were also raised. Senior Hazel Gomez described an incident last year in which a professor denied a Muslim student the opportunity to take her final exam three weeks in advance so that she could make her Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca and the fifth pillar of Islam. Gomez said that the student chose her faith over her grades and missed the exam, causing her to fail the class.

One issue repeatedly raised during the testimonials was that various administrative offices do not cause but perpetuate racial inequality.

Freshman Kenneth Owens, who was involved in the Labor Day campus safety profiling incident, described the “brick walls” that he and Granados-De La Rosa faced from the administration. “Systems and institutions set things in place that aren’t necessarily racist, but they allow racism to exist,” Owens said.

“This is the reality of the minority students here on campus,” Granados-De La Rosa said. “The time to change is now.”

Toward the end of the testimonials, Huie took the stage wearing a green armband around his wrist and encouraged students to inform him and his office of incidents of discrimination.

“It takes every single person to do something about it,” Huie said. “It doesn’t matter what your racial background is, you play a part.”

Huie encouraged students to write descriptions of acts of discrimination.

“Our department tries very hard to advocate for students, but we don’t have jurisdiction over any other department aside from ours,” he said.

Senior Paul Nappier, vice-president of USGA’s JUSTICE committee, then took the microphone. He said the fact that the OSD has no jurisdiction over the rest of the university perpetuates the problem of racism on campus.

“Things will change when we all come together and in one voice say it’s time to change this university, it’s time to change the structures that allow these things to happen,” Nappier said.

Junior Angelica Arevalo, an A.R.M. leader, explained to the students in CFSU that they could get involved in the cause by writing a letter to campus safety and to the Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., president of Loyola. She encouraged students to contact Garnazini and campus safety to express their calls for change.

A.R.M.’s action week will conclude Thursday with a student demonstration and march beginning at 1:45 p.m. outside CFSU.

Both Granados-De La Rosa and Kamran agreed that administrative support is crucial to the movement.

“It’s not us versus the administration, that’s not what we’re about,” Granados-De La Rosa said. “We’re trying to build bridges. We want them to be on our side marching with us. We will hold the door open to them to help us, and we expect them to want to do it.”

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