Written by Devon Mitchell
On Wednesday, June 3 the Student Government Association released a joint statement with the Black Student Alliance and Shades of Maroon. The statement informs Roanoke College students that the three student-led organizations have passed a joint resolution “in support of black students, community members, and Americans and to condemn acts of prejudice and hatred.”
The statement comes amid national protests against police brutality towards black lives following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was wrongly accused of using counterfeit money and was met with police aggression by Minneapolis Police Officers. Floyd is among many black Americans whose lives have been lost due to police brutality. His death catalyzed Americans of every race, social status, and generation to take a stand and fight against the years of systematic racism which has been a dark part of America’s past and present. Roanoke students, like the rest of America, have seen the injustices people of color have to face daily and cannot stay silent.
The statement sent to all Roanoke College students, faculty, and staff highlights the College’s purposes and principles. The phrase we all hear coming into orientation and in our years at Roanoke, “Live on Purpose” reminds students to not ignore. “Many Americans are not granted this option [to live on purpose] and instead are targeted for the color of their skin.” SGA reminds students in their statement that remaining silent is not an option and of the expectation of students to stand up against the injustices of racism and hatred. Additionally, SGA encourages the student community to take responsibility for educating themselves on the issues at hand. Promoting the college’s goals to produce “resourceful, informed, and responsible citizens,” SGA encourages the students they govern to stay informed, take action, and use their voices in their democracy.
BSA reminds students what they promote, “the diversity and understanding, to uplift and support culture, to promote unity, and provide support for black students and the community.” BSA encourages students to start difficult conversations. They wish to provoke active community members who voice their concerns through productive dialogue and discussion about solutions. Shades of Maroon adds to the statement in stating, “awareness is the first step in the foundation of being socially conscious about what occurs during these strenuous times.” Shades of Maroons tells students, we need to have open conversations about the injustices created by the “legacy of racism.” They remind students of their responsibility to cultivate a safe place for minorities and open dialogue.
The statement made to Roanoke College ends with a reminder for students to take care of themselves by saying, “We cannot enact change and stand up for what we believe in if we are not supporting ourselves and one another.” Quoting the Academic Catalog it is stated that the college stands for “Freedom With Purpose.” One last word of encouragement is made to the students using the College’s own words saying students should have “a desire to contribute to the common good at Roanoke College, in the Roanoke Valley, and beyond.” These words motivate students to speak up and “live on purpose” in their communities and the world they live in.
One of SGA’s purposes, stated in their Constitution is to “equitably represent the interests of the student body.” The legislation passed by SGA, BSA, and Shades of Maroon shows the student body that this is their primary focus, and they are there for their students. Roanoke College students are expected to rise to challenges academically, as well as morally and socially. The sentiments made in this statement show that SGA wishes to foster a relationship with the student body where they are unafraid to face these challenges together and to enact change.