Editor’s note: The Slate received this letter Jan. 30 from the Young Democratic Socialists at Shippensburg University. The group submitted the letter following an incident involving a student posing next to a sign that says “Black lives do not matter.” For more information about the university’s response, see “SU further responds to campus community’s calls for action.”
Dr. Laurie Carter
Shippensburg University President
Dr. Stephanie Jirard
Chief Diversity Officer
Mr. Barry McClanahan
Associate Vice President, Student Affairs
Dear Dr. Carter, Dr Jirard, and Mr. McClanahan,
In recent memory, there have been a number of incidents intended to threaten and belittle the lives of Black individuals in our community as well as on a national scale. An incident with the purpose of degrading any individual because of their race, no matter how big or small, is an act of violence and should be handled as such. Rural communities like Shippensburg often hold a reputation for having backward and offensive values. But that’s not what we stand for. And it’s not what Shippensburg stands for. We would like to see this stereotype challenged by the administration, staff and faculty of Shippensburg University. Right now that’s not happening.
The Democratic Socialists at Shippensburg University are committed to creating a safe and inclusive space for the student body and this includes holding our peers to a certain standard of accountability. We are committed to supporting and protecting the lives of our diverse and marginalized peers — not out of some sanctimonious grandstanding — but because we believe that their lives truly matter. This is not up for debate. This is not a difference of opinion. As a socialist organization, we are keenly aware of the importance of free speech and opinion, but we also recognize that when said opinions challenge and undermine the value of a life, lines in the sand have to be made. Learning from one's mistakes includes accepting consequences and making amends. There can be no unity without accountability.
We hope that the University's administration shares these values and that steps will be taken to hold accountable those who pose a threat to marginalized members of our community and ensure incidents like these don’t happen in the first place. As our community grows and diversifies, Shippensburg University has a duty to demonstrate that Black Lives Matter at Shippensburg University.
Young Democratic Socialists at Shippensburg University