Editorial: ‘Wake’ Up!
(pictured above: A photo released by Wake Forest University last week shows some of the flowers Imam Khalid Griggs has received since vile matter was left at his office.)
Dear Old Wake Forest:
Yes, it is a dear old place to many who have set foot on the original campus outside of Raleigh, as well as the current campus in Winston-Salem. Since 1834, this institution of higher learning has prided itself as being a leader in higher education.
Under the motto of “Pro Humanitate,” the university has made some innovative and progressive moves, ranging from the admission of Dr. Ed Reynolds in 1962, ranging from one to six years earlier than our ACC peers of Clemson University (1963) and Duke University (1968), to the hiring of the beloved Dr. Maya Angelou, the long-time Reynolds Professor, educator, activist, and agent of social change extraordinaire, to even the recent hiring of MSNBC’s Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry.
Add to it a growing minority population exceeding 20 percent, specifically from those of Spanish-speaking background, African-American, Asian and other groups, the university is making major strides in having a campus population complete with the broadness and richness that is reflective of our larger society.
All is fine, dandy, and dear.
Well, not exactly.
Juxtaposed with the progressive nature is a very deliberate, laborious, sloth-like response to those who would prefer the university have its relative homogenous makeup pre-1962. This ranges from alumni who under the false mantra of “The Truth About Wake Forest” would paint anyone of a non-Caucasian background, non-Southern Baptist background as being an enemy of the state given his religion background and previous writings.
Of course, their site is conveniently not working at the time of this writing.
Earlier this week, the associate chaplain, Imam Griggs, received an anonymous “gift” from some anonymous students in the form of leaving a bucket of urine (and quite possibly fecal matter) at his office door. I’m sure this is what he had in mind in receiving a “surprise present” from a “Secret Santa.”
On the heels of ongoing areas of concern ranging from campus police and the call for major review of policies and procedures grounded in the enhancement of the campus culture, the university’s response to this has merely been to provide Griggs with flowers at his door. While the concept of giving someone their flowers before they depart from this earth, how about a different concept?
Why not strengthen the hate-crime policies to where someone doing something along these lines at minimum is suspended for a year, let alone immediately expelled? Why not make a stronger stance and statement noting actions such as these are not tolerated on a campus that prides itself in being an institution of higher learning.
A step further is to admonish alumni who use the image and likeness of the university for their own misguided means and devices. Even with the work that I do under different university programs, it is in the form of being an officially recognized affinity group, and said groups, even in being critical, are doing so for the betterment of the campus, especially in light of the ever-changing world that we live in.
Turning back the clock is something that sadly, some students and alumni would prefer happen in order to get back to the way that things used to be, circa 1834-1961. Strongly, I am sure that students of color, minority students and others with a minute modicum of sense aren’t about to welcome the return of the “pitch and fetch it” manner that people are viewed in at that time (and sadly, as some people would consider to view them).
Even a recent social event involving members of the campus chapters of Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. represents something of a breakthrough, given the histories of both organizations. So if they can make efforts to “reach across the table,” others can surely do so.
Just as all citizens (for some, an ongoing struggle) are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the same holds true for any and all students attending the institution of higher learning at 1834 Wake Forest Road.
All students, faculty, staff, administration, affinity groups and alumni are shareholders in what takes place there. While some traditions are meant to be kept (i.e. consider the recent flack regarding the alma mater not being played at the end of games, and how alumni ended that potential mishap real quickly), some things are meant to change.
It’s not the plantation. It’s a place for higher learning and making the world a better place not just for you, but for all, especially in the pursuits of higher learning and being a positive resource given the ever-changing and challenging conditions in which we live, work, and play.
And the tone needs to be set from the top while holding their feet to the fire needs to come from multiple entities that understand this to the fullest.
In order to truly ascend, there are some growing pains that clearly have to happen, along with the sincere, focused, strategic work in order to reach such an end. While the commentary from some students, faculty, staff, alumni and other affinity groups is growing, a stronger statement and corresponding actions must come from the top, and clearly, their silence isn’t necessarily co-signing on such foolhardy conduct, but it’s not exactly shutting them down either.
And while yesterday’s “Retake the Quad” is a nice, symbolic way to draw attention to the matter, employing improved means to better solve, eliminate or at least drastically reduce the problem has to be more paramount.
We have to be better and do better; being worse is not an option.
Andrew Snorton is president of the Association of Wake Forest University Black Alumni. He is also a member of the school’s Alumni Council and Deacon Club.