Tensions ran high at a Black Student Union town-hall meeting Thursday night as students gathered in the Marvin Center to discuss the quality of black student life at GW and the role of black and other minority organizations on campus.
Many students at the meeting said there is room for improvement among black organizations and GW student relations in general.
“We’re all totally diverse in cultures; we need to work together for a common base,” said junior Nick Wiggins, president of GW’s chapter of the NAACP. “We’re a very powerful unit at this University when we want to be.”
Wiggins said he sees unity among black student organizations as a way to improve productiveness.
The discussion was part of this month’s Black History Celebration, which BSU president Phillip Robinson said will be “20 times better than last year’s celebration.”
BSU Vice President Tamika Smith said black student organizations on campus are feeling pressure to perform and showcase their hard work as a cohesive unit.
“Last year, everyone seemed excited and vibrant,” Smith said. “This year the lack of unity among people and organizations is disappointing.”
Despite some setbacks, BSU leaders said they were encouraged by good turnouts for Black History Celebration events so far.
Robinson moderated the discussion of 25 students centered on the quality of communication between black and other minority organizations.
Many said old grievances hinder progress.
“None of the organizations on campus gets along with each other; there’s a lot of pettiness,” senior Luche Ajene said.
Senior Kehinda Powell agreed, saying “Every organization has drama in it.”
Recurring words used in the discussion to describe black student life at GW include “nonexistent,” “boring” and “incohesive.” Most students expressed disenchantment concerning race and the GW social scene.
Several students noted that many ethnic and religious groups at GW tend to keep to themselves.
“I’m tired of being people’s first black friend,” freshman Ariel Pennick said. Students referred to GW students as being “too individualistic” and GW in general as being “impersonal.”
Smith and Robinson encouraged students to spread the word about events this month, to participate and not to become entangled in gossip, which they said was detrimental to the effectiveness of an organization. The leaders also encourage feedback about black student organizations.
BSU is the second-oldest organization on campus and one of last year’s Pyramid Award recipients for being one of the best-registered campus groups.
Robinson said he is optimistic about the newly formed Black Leaders Council, which includes heads of black organizations on campus and of the Multicultural Student Services Center.
“I hope to reach out to other organizations and lead by example, and I hope to uplift the whole GW community as well,” he said.
He said he intends to focus on what he calls “the three R’s:” recruitment, retention and rebuilding.
“If we touch just one student, that’s enough for a lifetime,” Robinson said.