University takes concrete steps to support the Black Lives Matter movement

Marywoods Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution supporting the displaying of the Black Lives Matter banner on the Learning Commons overlook. Additionally, the resolution also supports steps the university is taking to educate the community on racism.

Photo credit/ Jarod Engle

Marywood’s Student Government Association (SGA) passed a resolution supporting the displaying of the Black Lives Matter banner on the Learning Commons overlook. Additionally, the resolution also supports steps the university is taking to educate the community on racism.

Ellen Frantz, News Editor

It has been four months since the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and the charging of the four Minneapolis police officers involved with manslaughter. In a cell phone video recorded by an eyewitness, Floyd, 46, was seen lying on the ground as a white officer named Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck until Floyd was unconscious.

This event sparked cultural unrest across the world as society reacted to the way Black people have been treated, especially by law enforcement officers. Since then, Marywood University has shown its support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and has promised to stand against racism.

Marywood’s first response to the death of George Floyd came in June when university President Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D, released a statement condemning racism. Soon after the statement, the university displayed a Black Lives Matter banner on the Learning Commons overlook. This move drew mixed reactions from the community.

“I had [a few] parents who were very upset [at the banner] because they said it was a political statement and that we should take it down,” said Persico. “It is not a political statement at all. It is a Christian statement. They said that we were pitting people against each other and promoting violence. The last thing I want to do is promote violence.”

Despite the complaints, Persico said the university’s Catholic mission called her to keep the banner in place.

“In our Christian scripture, Jesus tells us we need to love one another, and we do need to love one another,” said Persico. “We have to make the world better, not worse.”

Director of Equity and Inclusion Dr. Yerodin Lucas called the backlash “unfortunate” and said he believes a lot of it comes from misinformation about the movement’s motives.

“The Black Lives Matter movement was never about saying that Black lives matter above any other group of people. Of course all lives matter. But right now, it is the Black lives that are in danger in this country, so that is why they are being highlighted and amplified,” said Lucas.

Members of the community have also expressed support for the banner. Junior Music Therapy major Madison Howell is happy Marywood took this stance. Howell is the Student Government Association (SGA) International Students and Multicultural Affairs representative.

“They are acknowledging this problem, and they are acknowledging that it exists, which is what a lot of people aren’t doing,” said Howell.

Marywood’s SGA also has shown its support for the banner. On Sept. 22, SGA unanimously passed a resolution saying they were in agreement with not only the Black Lives Matter banner but the various other events the school is hosting to educate the community.

SGA President Alexis Palys says that due to the backlash about the banner from the community, Persico asked the members of SGA if they personally thought she was doing the right thing.

“We [the SGA Executive Cabinet] were in agreement that we should definitely create this resolution, bring it to SGA and see how all of the [SGA members] are feeling,” said Palys. “We all knew how everyone felt about it studentwise; it would need to stay on campus.”

Palys wants the community to see the resolution and know that Marywood is a safe and welcoming place.

“I would really love for everyone to take away from this that Marywood, in its structure and in its entirety and in its core values, should be a safe place for everyone,” said Palys. “It should be a community. It should be a place where everyone fits in and feels at home. Yes, things out in the world are divided right now but we want students, faculty and staff to feel that Marywood is a safe place for them.”

The banner is not the only way Marywood is showing its support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Marywood has also opened a Truth and Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center on campus thanks to a grant from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

The new center is officially opened on the third floor of the Liberal Arts Center. According to Director Dr. Lia Palmiter, the center has a goal of educating the Marywood community to combat racism.

The university also will host more Racial Healing Circles, where students, faculty and staff can talk about race and how it has impacted their lives in both positive and negative ways. Other opportunities for group discussions about equality and inclusion are also planned for this semester, according to Palmiter.

Palmiter said she is excited to see the impact the new center will make on the Marywood community.

“We want to bring awareness but also to bring focus on our humanity by using Marywood’s own mission and core values,” said Palmiter. “It will be one of the leaders on-campus to provide training, resources and those kinds of things.”

Palmiter said she sees this center as an opportunity to spread Marywood’s mission.

“All of these [projects] are enhancements to Marywood’s mission,” said Palmiter. “[Our goal is to have Marywood] look at all the richness and all the other cultures that we have and to celebrate that.”

SGA’s International Students and Multicultural Affairs Representative Madison Howell said she is looking forward to the university’s plans to strengthen its diversity. Howell said some of these plans include a Black Student Union, a Global Unity and Equality safe space and required racial healing training for all faculty, staff and students.

Howell explained that she is thrilled Marywood is making an effort to raise awareness and put an end to systemic racism, but thinks the school can still do more. Howell said she hopes to see a change in curriculum that makes Ethnicity and Diversity in the Modern World a required class.

“It’s Black history, but in the context of American history,” explained Howell. “It talks about Indigenous groups and different cultures and what they have done for America. I think that should be required. We take four years of American history in high school; we don’t need another Roots of the Modern World. We have that base. Why not build on it something we haven’t learned already?”

Persico said she finds it moving to see young adults who are passionate about taking a stand against racism.

“The time is right. The place is right. We have very thoughtful people around this community, both students, faculty and staff, who I think can move the needle to help people, especially people of color, have the accesses that we have as white people,” said Persico.

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Twitter: @EllenFrantzTWW