BLACKSBURG --- Approximately 50 students came out to a rally Tuesday evening at Virginia Tech to hear black student leaders ask for a series of reforms in the university's curriculum.
The reforms address what the students called a lack of sufficient programs about black studies and racism on the campus. Gordon Rowe, president of the Virginia Tech chapter of the NAACP, said "we're here to confront racism." He also said the rally was conducted to demonstrate to the university that the student chapter of the NAACP is a strong voice on campus and student leaders want to be heard.
"Are we confrontational? Yes, we are," Rowe said. "We're looking to confront the problem of racism. Problems require solutions and solutions demand confrontations."
"We are determined that events that happened at Kenyon College do not happen in the future," Rowe said, alluding to a recent incident at the Ohio college where a pledge of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Virginia Tech had his picture taken while kissing a black woman as part of a hazing ritual. The fraternity lost its university affiliation and its status as a student organization as a result following the incident.
The students circulated four proposals they have submitted to Tech President James McComas, concerning black studies and race relations at Tech. The students are asking for a mandatory race relations class for incoming freshmen, a black studies program to be incorporated into the core curriculum, racial sensitivity training for Greek organizations on campus and the establishment of an official policy for racial harassment, a policy the university at present does not have.
"We want a punitive response and an educational response," to the events at Kenyon College, Rowe said. The mandatory training at racial sensitivity workshops training at racial sensitivity workshops for Greek organizations will be an educational response, Rowe said. Requiring 100 hours of community service in a black community by the persons who committed the infraction would serve as an appropriate punitive response, he added.
A black studies program would eliminate the racial mentality prevalent on campus, Pam Preston, another speaker, said. Funding for a book about the different ethnic groups on campus would make students "aware of the diversity of racial groups on campus," she added.
The student leaders met with black faculty members on Monday and the faculty members were supportive of their proposals, Rowe said.
The students said the black studies program should be a separate department within the university's curriculum. It's important to have black faculty and administrators, Rowe said.
Students at the rally expressed support for the demands, one saying "it's a disgrace that we don't" have a black studies program. Qwame Alexander, one of the students who drafted the four proposals, met with McComas recently. He said McComas did not explicitly rule out the possibility of the proposals.
In response to a question about whether the students would accept a compromise on the proposals, Rowe said "everything we've asked for is important." The purpose of the rally, he said, "is to keep the spirit going." This is the third rally this semester for blacks at Virginia Tech, said one student. The Kenyon College affair served as a catalyst for the rallies, which have taken place in the plaza outside Newman Library.