ANTI-RACIST ACTION AT PENN STATEUNIVERSITY
By BigM from Pennsylvania
State College, Pa.
On April 21, 2000, during the annual Blue-White football game (a football scrimmage between two sides of the regular football team) about two hundred black and white students rushed onto the field (in front of 50 thousand fans) protesting death threatsagainst black student leaders. Twenty-six of those protestors were arrested and charged with trespassing. Then on the Tuesday following the Blue-White game, what was to be a rally and march for "unity" led by the University President, Graham Spanier, was stopped in its tracks! Black Caucus members grabbed the microphone at the starting point of the unity march and asked everybody who was about to march to not march and join with black students and demand that the charges be dropped on the arrested students; that the University hire 10 additional tenured faculty members for the African-American Studies program; that the University act to stop threats against black students; that the University act to create a better climate for all minority students; and that the University recruit moreminority students. There were thousands of students ready to join Spanier's unity march but they did not march.
Spanier was forced to meet with black student leaders at the Hub (the Penn State Student Union building) and discuss their demands. Spanier was unwilling to agree to any demand and left the meeting after a short conference.The Black Caucus members along with some white students, Asian-American students, and some foreign students, vowed to remain in the Hub until Spanier met the demands. The sit-in lasted a few days until Spanier agreed to drop the charges on the arrested protestors and give round-the-clock protection to LaKeisha Wolf, the President of the Black Caucus, who had received several E-mail death threats sent to the college newspaper (they were not printed).
The Black Caucus is a black student semi-governing body at Penn State University, which is a big 40 thousand plus students university. It represents the views of many of the black students at the University and organizes black student concerns and social functions.
There was another death threat against black student leaders at graduation ceremonies, which took place May 10th, 11th, and 12th. This threat took the form of a bomb threat and there was very tight security during the graduation sessions. The bomb never materialized.
Penn State is a major University, well-known as a football powerhouse. It has a very low percentage of black students relative to the percentage of black people who live in Pennsylvania. There has been a long-standing racist atmosphere at this University. Black students walking or living on campus or in the town are repeatedly cursed at or threatened as are other minority students, including the large number of African and Asian students. The University exists in a very conservative rural area of the state, which is a center for white supremacist groups. Black students have voiced a lot of fear at attending Penn State. Even though many white students do express racist attitudes, many other white students support the black student concerns and demands. We will have to see what happens when the regular fall semester gets going, because most anti-racist activity has slowed for the present time.
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