Student to UNH President at racism forum: 'You'll never know what it's like to be black'
DURHAM — Tensions were high as hundreds piled into the University of New Hampshire Granite State Room on Thursday evening.
Students of all races stood together as they forced President Mark Huddleston, along with many members of UNH's administration, to understand how and why the university is failing them as students.
The students initially gathered Tuesday evening for a sit-in, following a series of racial events circulating campus since Cinco de Mayo. Some students argued things have been reaching a boiling point since President Donald Trump was elected into office.
"I was one of the few people who planned this event tonight. It came out of a sit-in in one of the residential halls," said UNH sophomore Gabrielle Greaves. "What we're really advocating for is the university to take a stand against the racism that happens on campus and for students who commit racist acts to be held accountable."
During the sit-in Tuesday the students organized the public forum at the University to voice their concerns to the administration about the racial discrimination, laying out a list of 15 demands they wish to be fulfilled in the coming year.
READ: UNH activist: Dozens of students participate in sit-in after 'racist blackface' Instagram post
The student organization, Black Student Union, presented a list of 15 demands to the university's administration. Included in the demands were a mandatory, 4-credit, inter-sectional social justice class; doubling the number of faculty and staff of color by the end of the 2017-18 school year; the immediate removal of students Courtney Lamer, Andrew Miller and Haley Flynn; and the immediate cancellation of the end of the year barbecue that falls on Cinco de Mayo.
Huddleston responded well to some of the requests, assuring the students he would fix them the next day, if possible. During some of the demands, Huddleston defended himself against the students' anger by expressing his support for due process.
"I'm going to say one more thing to make you mad," Huddleston began in response to their demands of throwing students out. "We're not going to do it because we have due process."
Huddleston explained that if a student were to go through the system of conduct and were proven guilty, they would be thrown out.
"And one thing that worries me about our nation right now, looking at Washington, I don't think some of our leaders care about due process," Huddleston said. "I do care about due process because it is the fundamental foundation of what we are as a democracy. We are a nation of laws, treating people fairly according to a set of established procedures."
One of the biggest reasons the students were so upset with the administration, was their lack of response. In rebuttal to Huddleston's comment, they looked back on several emails that had gone seemingly unnoticed by faculty — specifically Huddleston.
"You're saying due process, but you have evidence (of the racism)," said Alicia Casey, a member of the Black Student Union. "You have emails that we sent to your administration, you directly, and you have yet to speak on any of them. I'm sorry, but due process does not justify blackface."
Obviously upset, the woman became angry as she referenced an Instagram post of a white UNH student in what they thought was blackface, with a direct quote from a Cinco de Mayo Facebook post by Danique Montique.
"Blackface is a direct death threat. You will never know how that feels because you cannot take this skin off," she yelled as she pinched her dark skin. "I'm black, you're white, and you'll never understand what it is to walk on this campus as a student of color."
A night that started hostile in nature calmed down after the actions of some administrators. In response to one of the student's stories, one professor of color shared her experiences with racism.
"I am African American," she began. "I do know exactly how you feel. I have been through desegregation. I grew up in Virginia; I know exactly how you feel. I've been to segregated schools, and I have been to integrated schools. When I was in college, in the '70s, I did what you're doing, and I'm proud of you.
Huddleston continued to lead many of the administration's response, yielding questions from angry, hurt and hopeless students.
"Obviously there are incidents, bias, and racism that are unacceptable that for many of us go beneath the surface," Huddleston said Thursday.
Several students continued to share their personal accounts of others on campus spitting on them, calling them names and making them feel as if they don't belong in their home. Students explained how they are looking to UNH to be the school that breaks the status quo and becomes a part of the solution.
"There's a saying that goes, I don't know if I'm saying it right, but in the south, they'll let you get close but never far, and in the north, they'll let you get far but never close," Jubilee Byfield said. "Do you want to be the kind of school that let's us get far but not be happy and content and fulfilled? Or do you want to let us get far and be happy and successful?"
One student, very hurt by a recent experience, took the microphone to show the administration that not all are as understanding as they would hope.
"They decided to scream out spic over and over and over again," said the student who identified himself as T.J., who became visibly upset fighting back tears. "Like every other Hispanic in here, and colored person in here, we take, we these words very serious."