As dusk fell over the Academic Quad Tuesday, thousands of Bucknell University students, faculty and staff stood together in solidarity. One-by-one, students came forward to courageously share with the crowd their all-too-often experiences with discrimination, in hope that those experiences would provide a catalyst for change.
"As a black woman, these conversations are important to me, and my challenge comes in making them important to you," said Danielle Taylor '17. "What I'm asking you to do here today, after all that you've heard, is to take what you've learned and let's run with it.
"Don't let this moment die," she continued. "Eventually this event will become history and nobody will be talking about it, but what they will remember are the steps that we as a community took to move forward."
The Solidarity Ceremony, led by students and organized by the Bucknell Student Government, followed a March 20 incident in which three students used a racial slur and language referencing racially motivated violence during a live WVBU radio broadcast. After WVBU and University leadership learned of the comments, the students were suspended and, following an investigation, expelled on March 30.
While that incident may have sounded a wake-up call for some, student speakers said it was emblematic of a larger and long-running issue at Bucknell and America at large.
"Ever since the news broke of the WVBU broadcast, we have all been playing a game of finger pointing: Those people, or that group, or that organization is responsible," said Alexandra Rosen '16, president of Bucknell Student Government. "What we have not done yet is point the finger at ourselves. We have to be able to hold ourselves accountable for our own campus culture."
The event encouraged members of the Bucknell community to listen to the fears and experiences of their peers and to recognize by a show of hands the privileges that they do and don't possess. The audience responded to several questions by holding glowsticks in the air, a visual exercise that clearly highlighted the contrasting life experiences among many in the crowd.
"Raise your glowstick if you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth," Taylor intoned. "Raise your glowstick if you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms or behavior to avoid being judged or ridiculed ... Raise your glowstick if you were ever stopped or questioned by the police because of your race."
"What we hope you will understand is that we all in some way have privileges," she said in summary. "Let's take these privileges and work towards finding creative ways to utilize them to make a better space for others."
The event culminated with the signing of a Solidarity Creed inspired by that of the University of Mississippi, which students learned of during a University-led Civil Rights Spring Break trip.
"As a member of this community, I will respect the diversity of all individuals, including, but not limited to, their sex, gender, identity, expression, race, ethnicity, age, class, citizenship, sexual orientation, nationality, socio-economic status, religion, physical ability and mental ability," the creed reads in part. "I will commit to educating myself about cultures, identities and experiences other than my own."
Tuesday night's event followed a series of actions taken across the University to address racism and discrimination more broadly. Last week, University faculty passed a resolution strongly condemning racism and pledging to recommit themselves with urgency to addressing its manifestations at Bucknell. Earlier Tuesday the faculty began that process during a special forum to plan ways by which professors can help improve the campus climate and reduce racism. On Sunday, President John Bravman detailed other steps taken in this note to students, faculty and staff.
On April 22, the President's Diversity Council will also host an open session for students, faculty and staff. The event will be held in Walls Lounge from 1:30–4 p.m.
"We must confront with vigor racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia — all forms of discrimination," said President Bravman. "We know the work that's already been done is just the beginning. The journey ahead is long and daunting. But let us, together, seize upon this moment to bring about the change that our community not only deserves, but demands."