By Emily Cousins | Staff Writer
At a demonstration at the SUB Bowl on a rainy afternoon Saturday, nine students shared their experiences as a minority student in front of approximately 50 people.
They told stories of discrimination and called the students and faculty in the audience to action.
Shreveport, La., sophomore Veronica Penales, student senator, organized the event, the next in a series of similar demonstrations that have taken place this semester. Penales said she never expected to be a leader at Baylor, but her experiences of discrimination because of her sexuality left her no choice.
“As a student leader, activist, I’m supposed to know how to do a lot of things,” Penales said. “How to project my voice. How to make sure what I’m saying is worth listening to. How to sleep when I don’t have enough hours in the day, but still enjoy waking up to the rising star or making dinner in the company of friends. How to balance an education and scholarships and getting that degree, when all you want to do is tear down the system, just so we can build it back up together, but I don’t know how to do that.”
Spring senior Brittany LaVergne, one of the speakers at the demonstration, said she has never regretted coming to Baylor because of the education she has received and connections she has made. She said her love for Baylor pushes her to ask for more from the university.
“Baylor has an opportunity to demonstrate that Christianity … can be open to rigorous academic discussion around complex social issues with people of countless backgrounds and invite people to have discourse,” LaVergne said. “The best way to demonstrate Christianity is to be open to academic dialogue. As Jesus invited everyone and anyone to his table, Baylor should as well.”
Other events similar to Saturday’s demonstration include a Feb. 3 sit in at Moody Memorial Library in response to police being called on a group of Black students and a Feb. 1 demonstration calling for the removal of the Judge Baylor statue.
In response to these events, President Linda Livingstone sent a presidential perspective on Feb. 4.
“We talk a lot on our campus about the Baylor Family, and it certainly is true that we share the bonds of love, concern and connection that typify an extended family,” President Livingstone wrote. “It also is true that, among our many members, the Baylor Family includes individuals whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from one another — sometimes dramatically. And as with relatives, unfortunately, sometimes family members say or do things that cause great hurt or deep pain. These situations within our family cannot be ignored. They must be acknowledged, and we all must work together so they are not repeated or become institutionalized into the future.”
Most recently, the Baylor Board of Regents passed the report made by the Commission on Historic Campus Representations. The report is now in the hands of Baylor administration and in the coming weeks and months, they will make recommendations to the Board about how to move forward.
Sylvan Springs, Ala., first-year graduate student Hannah Woods said she attended the previous demonstration at Moody and creating change will take more people showing up for their peers.
“Anyone who is thinking that these concerns aren’t valid, all you have to do is listen for two minutes to hear the hurt of students,” Woods said.
Austin freshman Christine Truong, another of the event’s speakers, said she walks around campus feeling nervous someone might call her a racial slur.
“Asians are always seen as the model minority or the smart ones,” Truong said. “People would casually throw around terms like ‘chink’ or ‘ching chong’ as if they meant nothing.”
Truong said the number of hate crimes against Asian people increased when the COVID-19 pandemic began. She said people refer to the virus as “the Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu.”
“I saw the world blame Asian Americans for the pandemic that they have absolutely no control over,” Truong said.
On Feb. 8, a newsletter on equity and campus engagement was sent to the Baylor community sharing the progress and details of many projects Baylor is doing to “create a more equitable and compassionate campus.”
The newsletter included details about the “Loving our Neighbor” video, the Trailblazer Scholars Program, the Conversation Series, the Commission on Historic Campus Representations and other initiatives.
Hayneville, Ala., second-year graduate student Audri Thicklin said she wasn’t aware of all the hurt inflicted on minority students from Baylor administration all the way down to its students.
“I was just very uneducated about all the things that have been happening here, but also knowing that there are a lot of people who are advocating for change in talking through the hurt that they’ve experienced,” Thicklin said.
Thicklin said after hearing all these testimonies, she wants to be more involved.
“It’s more than just coming in and sitting at an event like this, or posting on social media, but really … digging into those groups that are trying to do the work,” Thicklin said.