If there’s one thing all groups on campus should be able to agree on, it’s that communication with the student body is key. From time to time, issues pop up that require a clear response; we saw that last week when many students became frustrated with aspects of Haraya’s Black Solidarity Day.
Haraya initially responded to students’ anger with a lengthy statement online that decried not only the criticisms, but the students who made them. The statement said, in part: “Haraya is in the best interest of all students — granted, especially black students, but we will never use our platform to make others feel uncomfortable or unwanted. It isn’t about coddling people, but if you do not understand why booking a room every week under an actual organization’s name to just ‘be angry’ is resulting in you not affecting change on our campus, feel free to attend our next general body meeting.”
It also emphasized that Haraya is a Pan-African student coalition — “NOT a Black Student Union.”
Students voiced confusion and frustration in response to the statement, which goes to show that it is not only communication that is necessary, but respectful communication. Respect must go both ways; the student leaders that comprise these organizations should always approach the student body with this in mind.
Interactions between organizations and the student body they serve should never be disrespectful or hostile. When students critique an organization for any reason, they should be met with openness, and organizations should also be able to respond fairly. This is the sort of interaction that is normal and even necessary for organizations to grow and fully understand the students they serve.
The statement made by Haraya came off as hostile, which is what led to additional student concerns. Upon reading the statement, students got mixed perceptions of what Haraya was trying to say — which is definitely a bad thing when an organization is trying to address already-existing concerns.
There needs to be more open communication between student organizations and the student body in all cases.
Recently, Student Government Inc. (SGI) instituted an open dialogue at the start of its floor meetings every other week for students to discuss issues on campus. Given that SGI oversees most of the student groups on campus, students could use this as an opportunity to ask questions about groups on campus, and receive answers.
Additionally, student groups can try hosting an open discussion at various times during the semester for students to ask questions about their mission.
Students need to know the mission of the organizations that represent them and they deserve an open dialogue with those groups. To start understanding and even to promote change, respectful communication needs to happen first.