Following Black History Month, Castleton University is making steps to be a better and safer community for students of color.
Senior Raynolds Awusi is president and a founding member of the school’s NAACP Chapter, as well as a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee, led by Victoria Angis. He says the committee has begun suggesting new ideas to implement for better inclusion on campus.
“Re-teaching our professors, teaching them more how to deal with those tough questions they’d usually just shy away from because they’re unsure what to say,” he named as one suggestion.
Unfortunately, students will sometimes ask questions that professors don’t know how to answer, or will outright choose to be ignorant, he said.
“Professors usually either just leave it alone, ignore it, or just hope that another student says something, and that’s not that student’s job,” Awusi said. This is one thing he believes could use improvement at Castleton.
Last semester, Awusi was the victim of hate speech from another student, at the time the Black Lives Matter flag was raised. When asked if the school has improved since that incident, his answer was no.
“I don’t really think there’s been significant change. I haven’t heard of this change,” he said. “I think it’s still a work in progress. There are things going on today that we would have thought would have been resolved or corrected by now.”
To celebrate Black History Month and bring discussions about race to the forefront at Castleton, the Students of Color Advocate Maya Kraus virtually hosted speakers Lisa Ryan, Tabitha Moore and Sen. Kesha Ram. These are three prominent women of color living in Vermont and working for racial justice.
Moore spoke out about the racism occurring in Vermont, calling it “Intentionally boastful hate.”
“I feel like people are just so much more emboldened to be actively hateful these days,” Moore said.
This, sadly, rings true on Castleton’s campus as well, Awusi said.
But he believes the school is starting the necessary steps to improve. He works closely with Public Safety, the school’s administration, and with the DEI Committee to work toward equity.
“I definitely have a positive outlook on the future, and I feel like there’s a lot of great people in school who want to do the right thing,” said Awusi. “It’s just a matter of finding someone who can supply them with the tools to go along with it.”
Emails to several CU faculty and administrators for comment went unreturned or they declined to comment.