As Ohio University students, we were disheartened and surprised by a tweet that has circulated on social media recently. Several white OU students quoted a Vine that included the N-word and implied that black people are going to steal from a store. The video, and the people who were involved in it, told a message that black people are not welcome at our university.
We tend to assume that everyone in the beautiful college town of Athens holds the same values and beliefs that we do, so to see fellow students and people our age display explicitly racist behavior comes as a shock.
But the reality is that the majority of OU students and faculty members hold implicit biases, some less implicit than others.
It is no secret that The Post has struggled with diversity, and we are continuing to work on this. Last week, Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, the director of OU’s Multicultural Center, took time out of her Thursday evening to chat with our staff about implicit biases in the media and microaggressions. She not only talked about ways we can improve as a media outlet in our coverage of different cultures, but she also helped us understand how daily dialogues can affect people of color and other minorities.
We often don’t realize how some of our everyday language can be misinterpreted or simply make others feel uncomfortable. Chunnu-Brayda helped open our eyes and made us think more deeply about the things we say in classrooms, in everyday social situations and, perhaps most crucially, in our newsroom.
Still, this isn’t enough. We will continue to hold these cultural competency workshops year after year, in hopes of improving how we cover diverse issues and how we act as people.
We ask that the university do the same.
In the first few months of a student’s time at OU, they are exposed to so much. Often, these experiences are new and unlike what they experienced in their hometowns and high schools. New students take two mandatory workshops, Haven and Alcohol Edu, in their first year. These are important experiences for students, as they teach them about sexual assault and alcohol competency. But we need to expand to another crucial facet in every college student’s life: cultural competency.
Ohio University claims to take pride in its international student population and frequently boasts of its enrollment of people of color. But stories of disclusion, discomfort and blatant racism are well-known.
In a statement about the video, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones called the video a “racial incident.” In reality, the video portrays explicit racist behavior. The university needs to stop dancing around racism that comes out of the university and must instead fully confront it.
When University of Alabama students posted a video in March 2018 in which a student said a racial slur, that student was expelled. While we do not want to suggest a course of action on the university’s behalf, we believe something must done in this instance.
OU needs to take action to put money where its mouth is, so to speak, and put more effort into making people of color feel represented and comfortable.
Creating mandatory cultural competency workshops for all students would be a step in the right direction. For years, students have been advocating for the implementation of these classes.
This can’t be the only course of action, though. Perhaps the university can make certain cultural classes mandatory, such as Introduction to African American Studies and Difficult Dialogues: Religion, Race and Sexuality. Continuing dialogue, holding those accountable for explicit racism and ensuring the faculty population is more representative of OU’s student body can also help contribute to making campus feel more welcoming.
But to simply write the situation off and undermine its danger is extremely harmful. Ohio University can do better.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Lauren Fisher, Managing Editor Maddie Capron, Digital Managing Editor Alex McCann, Assistant Managing Editor Jessica Hill and Creative Director Abby Gordon. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.