Home Campus Here are the ways Black Student Union is planning for the semester

Here are the ways Black Student Union is planning for the semester

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Students examine racial epithets that were painted on Ohio U's graffiti wall in fall 2016.

Looking forward, Black Student Union is all about two things: inclusivity and intersectionality. It serves as a resource for the black student population, but everyone can take part.

Visitors to the Black Student Union booth at the Involvement Fair never fail to ask one question: does the club allow non-black students to join? The answer: absolutely.

BSU was first organized in 1928, and relaunched in the 2010-11 school year. The first clause on membership in its constitution is that the club be “open to all Ohio University students.”

“Our mission is really to educate and inform the student body on issues concerning the black student population,” President Jasmyn Pearl, a junior journalism major, said.

“We look at issues that are local, state and nationwide. It can be anything from health issues to political issues. We do a lot of work with the administration, to make sure that students’ voices are being heard.”

One of their meetings last semester was about mental illness.

“In the black community, mental illness is something we don’t really pay much attention to,” Pearl said.

“Having a meeting like this allowed for the members to learn not just about mental illnesses, but give them the opportunity to take charge and apply what they now know to their own lives.”

She also mentioned that the BSU leadership team is working on a response to President Donald Trump’s actions over the summer.

In the spirit of intersectionality, BSU plans to continue its interaction with other social justice organizations on campus, specifically the LGBT Center and the International Student Union. When Pearl was a freshman, BSU didn’t interact much with either.

That began to change, as members of BSU recognized the “similarities between experiences of international students and black students.” And many black LGBT people feel unwelcome in the black community, Pearl said.

BSU’s goal isn’t just to unify students, though. It also strives to connect professors, faculty and the administration with student voices. Not only can members address issues at Ohio U during meetings, but BSU has professors who advise in settling conflicts.

One of the more recent and notable conflicts was when anonymous Athens community members painted racist epithets on the graffiti wall just outside of Bentley Annex during the fall semester of 2016.

Then-BSU president Kymaia Gadsden said it was only a matter of time before racial tension in Athens reached a point where hateful messages became apparent. In the meeting BSU staged after the graffiti was discovered, the group laid out plans to institute a stricter mandate on hate speech into the student code of conduct, the faculty handbook and throughout the atmosphere of campus.

Both Student Senate and Ohio U administration have been working with representatives of social justice groups since then to take steps forward.

On Sunday, BSU will once again table at the Involvement Fair, welcoming any and all students as dictated in its constitution.

“We aim to be a resource of education and a resource for the student body,” Pearl said.

“It goes against everything we stand for to turn away people who are different from us,” says Pearl.

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