The seats in the auditorium of Morton Hall overflowed with students, staff and faculty Monday evening for a town hall organized by Ohio University’s Black student body in response to the recent hate crimes committed on campus.
Seats filled up fast, and people sat on the stairs to listen and speak about experiences, grievances and actions they want to see from OU administration. Mya “Bunny” Wilson, a senior studying linguistics, monitored a Microsoft Teams call and said around 130 people listened in virtually, mostly Black alumni.
The town hall comes after four public instances of racist acts on campus.
These acts include a trash bag with racial and misogynistic slurs left outside Naomi Hamner’s, a freshman studying pre-nursing, dorm room in Sargent Hall.
Christopher Brown, a resident assistant in James Hall on West Green, tweeted in response to his door being urinated on. Brown is the only Black RA on his floor, he wrote in the tweet.
Brady Linkel, a pitcher on OU’s baseball team, was charged with criminal mischief for this incident March 21, according to a previous Post report.
As a response, members of the university’s Black student body organized a town hall to address faculty and administrators. All remarks were written down by mediators of the event and will be sent to administrators. Administrators were also in attendance, including OU President Hugh Sherman, student attendees said.
Hamner and Brown both spoke about their experiences. Gia Harper, a freshman who helped organize the event, read a written statement from Hamner.
“The truth is Ohio University puts on a facade,” Harper read. “They preach about their diverse campus and how welcoming and inclusive they are, but the reality is this campus continually asks students of color to forgive and forget the microaggressions, hate speech and racial incidents.”
Brown’s statement pointed out issues with housing. As an RA, Brown mentioned Housing and Residence Life offers students the ability to move rooms after a fight with a roommate or similar issues. Brown said neither he nor Hamner were contacted for a room change after what happened to them.
After the event, Brown said he was glad to see a good turnout and see administrators in attendance but remained skeptical of their intentions.
“The president was in attendance … a performative act, and so he heard us, and I feel like surely we will know if he listened,” Brown said.
In terms of his personal case, Brown said he’ll wait to see what happens with Linkel at his upcoming court date.
Sarah Thompson, a student who spoke at the town hall, said she is tired of seeing supportive emails that go nowhere. Thompson demanded Linkel be expelled, the baseball team be suspended for the rest of the season and for an investigation to be done on the trash bag incident. Both were followed by loud applause from the audience.
Seeing emails and signs of support around campus with a perception of no direct response by the university was brought up many times by students. Ben Hamilton, a sophomore studying contemporary music and digital instruments, said there is no point in addressing the problem if there is no solution.
“This is a generational pain that we are expressing, and what is it going to take?” Hamilton said. "What is it going to take? The Constitution still says that, to this day, we are three-fifths of a man because of the skin color we have, something we can't even control. So, the question is to the leadership of Ohio University: How do you see us? How do you see us, and what is it going to take to make the change here? Hopefully, our leaders of this university can see where we are coming from and make a change because … if there was a zero-tolerance policy, we all wouldn’t be gathering here today.”
During the section for solutions and actions, students and faculty spoke about ideas like mandatory diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty and the university hiring more diverse staff and faculty.
Harper said she is optimistic OU administration knows students are serious and the town hall will change the way the university deals with racism.
“As someone who is Black on campus, it was beautiful,“ Harper said. "Just seeing that many Black people come to support you, that many minorities, that many white allies be here to support you is a beautiful feeling."