Recently, I posted a statement on Facebook on my concern about Towson University’s Student Government Association’s failure to bring the demands of the black students who participated in #OccupyTowson to Annapolis during what is considered “Tiger Pride Day.” The purpose of Tiger Pride Day for the Student Government Association, according to the Towerlight, is “to meet with key lawmaking committees from the Senate and House to make their concerns known on a state level.” I considered the silence of the Student Government Association to be a silence that reified the physical, psychological, and educational violence that stifles the development of Towson University’s black student population. I considered the silence of the Student Government Association to be a silence that proved that the concerns of the black students at Towson University is seen as marginal and peripheral to the overarching vision of Towson University. In other words, at Towson University, black lives don’t matter – at least not enough to be brought to the lawmaking committees from the Senate and the House.
My critique was met with a responses by the Director of Legislative Affairs, Pierce Jaffri and President Kurt Anderson, two response that were essentially a circumvention of the major concern in order to evade the specificity inherent to black plight, two responses that went on to promote what basically amounted to an “All-Lives-Matter” Legislative agenda. Pierce Jaffri ran down the list of agenda points and then, went on to try to argue that this “All-Lives-Matter” agenda into something that, “directly affects black students”:
Keeping college tuition affordable
Black students will benefit from this initiative because many black students struggle with paying college tuition and are burdened with loan repayment after graduation.
- Promoting and sustaining a University System of Maryland graduate workforce.
This specifically asks the state legislature to create incentives for businesses to hire students who graduate from University System of Maryland schools, such as Towson. You and I both know that black people need more job opportunities in this country, and this initiative directly helps (in a way) black students find jobs more accessibly in Maryland.
- The advancement of transgender rights.
Transgender students in Maryland will benefit from this initiative. In fact, a black student whom I will not name for privacy reasons, met with my assistant director and help us compose this initiative.
- Securing the operating budget.
This initiative ensures that we as an institution are able to secure operating funds from the state government that will help our university operate. This students of color just like you John, because this allows the university YOU attend to operate to its fullest capacity possible.
- Capital Improvement Projects
This initiative allows for students, regardless of color, the ability to have a greater experience if they are to select a major program in either the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics or the College of Health Professions. This will allow those students to get a top-of-the-line education in these fields and will make them more well-educated and better prepared for the workforce upon graduation.
Not only does his comment unconvincingly explain how these agenda points DIRECTLY affect black students in regards to the specificity of their plight (For example, Jaffri fails to recognize that black students struggle with college affordability, job availability, transphobia, entrance into Towson University, and success in the Sciences, Mathematics, and Health Profession programs in drastically different ways than white students), but it fails to address the true issue I had with SGA’s Legislative Agenda.
I had to reiterate to Jaffri that the agenda itself wasn’t problematic. It was, in Derridean fashion, what the agenda decided to leave out. I am well aware of the importance of college affordability for all students. I am well aware of how important promoting and sustaining a University System of Maryland graduate workforce is. I am well aware, and extremely in favor of the importance of promoting transgender rights. I am well aware of the importance of securing the operating budget and I am well aware of the significance of the Capital Improvement Project for the Sciences and Health Professions in our evermore scientific and technological nation. However, I say that Jaffri failed as a Director of Legislative Affairs not for what he wrote, but for what he forgot to write, namely, anything in relation to protecting and representing the specific concerns that plague black students at this University. President Kurt Anderson’s response was simply a technical evasion of the issue which went on to state all the other things that the Student Government Association is doing on behalf of black demands and #OccupyTowson. If what he says the Student Government Association is doing for black students is true, then the works they are putting in in the aftermath of the #OccupyTowson has been fine work. However, the work that has been done outside of Tiger Pride Day was not my concern.
My concern was about Tiger Pride Day and why the Student Government Association, on a day supposedly dedicated to making University concerns known on a State level, did not consider the concerns of black students to be significant enough to be taken to the House and Senate. Director of Legislation, Pierce Jaffri said this was because, “The SGA Legislative Agenda, under my directorship, cannot include an initiative that is exclusive to a racial group on campus.” However, this problem appears to be either a non-problem (meaning an exclusive legislative point is actually something he is capable of doing, but didn’t want to) or there must exist a racially exclusive logistical measure that permits gender exclusivity while not permitting racial exclusivity. Why? Because the third agenda point precludes any statement that attempts to say the specificity is not possible unless there is a mandate or statute that specifically states that Jaffri is not allowed to be specific to race, but is allowed to be specific for gender identification.
Ultimately, the situation amounts to a disregard to the demands of the black students of #OccupyTowson and then, a disavow on behalf of the Student Government Association when asked to be held accountable and transparent about the reasoning behind their decision making. Nevertheless, this just means that we all need to be reminded that even in inaction there is an action, typically of indifference. This is a reminder that we must not #OccupyTowson, we must be #OccupyingTowson. This is a reminder that we will not and cannot go gently into that good night until every last demand is met.