Letter to the Editor 4: Issue 10

Brian J. Merriam Jr.

An Open Letter to the Bucknell Campus Community

This letter is in response to the heinous incident that occurred on March 20 and follow-up actions that have surrounded the Bucknell campus community over the past week. I feel that is imperative that our campus community hears from the graduate student population on campus.

I am white. I am a male. I am a heterosexual.

I acknowledge that I come from a culture of privilege. Although I cannot transform into the bodies and minds of my black peers on campus, I do have the power to listen.

I hear they’re threatened. I hear they’re disheartened. I hear they’re tired of being the advocates for social justice on campus.

My response: I am ready to advocate on their behalf.

The time for reflection is over. The time for discussion has ceased. It is time for action.

The administration has taken strict disciplinary measures towards the perpetrators with the sanction of expulsion. I applaud the University for taking a firm and commendable stance. However, as history shows, simply removing the “problem” from the organization does not prevent a recurrence. Our measures need to go beyond expulsion; there needs to be education and development to create a lasting change. After all, this is an institution of higher learning.

White members of this campus must stop sitting on the sidelines. We selected Bucknell because of its long lasting tradition of academic prestige, as well as the virtues that guide this institution. It is the responsibility of the entire campus community to shape the culture of Bucknell, not just the African-American population. In congruence with all great leaders, it is time to be proactive. The student voice must be heard. After all, we are the majority population on campus.

This problem is not going to vanish overnight. We need to be committed to an action-oriented and evolving plan that touches every member of this campus. This plan must be dedicated to sustainability.

We must demand diversity training for the entire community. We must demand more open forums where race and ethnicity can become a comfortable point of conversation. We must demand respect and equity for each member of the community. We must further integrate equity and inclusion into the mission of Bucknell.

It is time to stop looking in the other direction. Each member of the campus community must be responsible for their part.

I challenge my fellow Bucknellians to BU, Be The Change. It is imperative that we act as a united front. I urge you to join our fellow classmates and myself at the Bucknell Solidarity Ceremony on April 14 to help change our community. In addition, I have created a Facebook page for the purpose of introducing possible solutions for the complex task at hand.

I challenge my fellow white campus community members to embark on their own cultural competence mission in order to create an ever-lasting impact on Bucknell. Unfortunately, my time on campus will conclude in three short weeks. It saddens me deeply that I will not be here to see the lasting impact our student body has on Bucknell.

However, I would love to speak with anyone who has ideas on how we can change the cultural competency at Bucknell.

I will leave you with one final thought from Mahatma Ghandi: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

Respectfully,

Brian J. Merriam Jr. M ’15

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