A Call for Unity

Alumni Outlook: Grads Weigh In

Alex Soltany ’18

After four consecutive years on campus, it has been hard for me to be physically separated from Davidson College, a community that has given so much to me. It has been even harder to witness Davidson’s recent struggles from afar, as the community responds to the discovery of alleged student Neo-Nazis holding disgusting, prejudicial views toward a variety of races, ethnic groups, and religious traditions. To some, these ignorant epithets against blacks, Jews, and other marginalized communities come as a shock, as the comments are anathema to our college’s core institutional values. How could this happen at Davidson, a place that less than 2,000 students call home? How did such hate-filled rhetoric manage to infiltrate our protective “Davidson Bubble?” To others, however, the revelation just confirms what they already knew through personal experience—that issues of racism and white supremacy have plagued and continue to plague our college community. It is particularly ironic that a school with the motto, “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen,” now finds itself caught in a bind. In protecting the liberties of the accused, the administration threatens the very preservation of the nurturing learning environment that we all cherish.

It truly was a relief for me to learn that the administration, after responding initially to the situation, announced that there were no credible threats to campus. Yet, as comforting as that declaration may have been, students on campus continue to feel unsafe, and for fair reason, as there have been many other reports of similarly harrowing incidents within the past year, from the “It’s OK to Be White” sticker campaign to the Neo-Nazi slogan appearing on a classroom whiteboard, all noted by Evan Yi (’18) and Vita Dadoo (’18) in their letter outlining specific demands from Davidson alumni. To think that some in our community not only hold such hostile views, but capably hid them from the student body at large, profoundly worries me. I actively fear for the safety of marginalized students at Davidson. These events only further elucidate the necessity to elevate the voices of these students on every corner of campus and to enact significant changes that prioritize their safety and security.

We all have witnessed countless powerful flagpole events and stands in solidarity with ideas for follow-up that, to the frustrations of students, seem to get lost in the frenetic pace of campus life. I don’t think the recent protest will share this same fate, but I am concerned that in a frenzy to share their opinions and demands for change, students will spend less energy on building strong coalitions that can serve as platforms for demanding these changes, thereby muddling their own voices. Any hopes for significant reforms remain in jeopardy without a united strategy from the student body. Last year, in an effort to strengthen student voices, the SGA modified Common Ground, an organization for affinity groups to band together as one cohesive force, particularly in emergency situations. Given the increasing frequency of discrimination against marginalized groups at both a national and local level, it became apparent that an organization like Common Ground must remain a continually active presence on Davidson’s campus. The structural revisions created five permanent positions for campus affinity groups within the SGA as well as a biweekly forum whereby representatives from all groups could meet to discuss internal and campus-wide issues. This updated structure to Common Ground was designed to assist student organizations in collectively addressing serious campus issues during times like these. Hopefully, Common Ground can play an active role in fostering partnerships, directing conversations, and galvanizing reforms.

Continue to call for better transparency from the administration and its communications. Continue to unapologetically speak out against bigotry on our campus and beyond. And continue to demand institutional change. But in doing so, do not assume that the administration doesn’t care about protecting the well-being of its marginalized communities. The administration truly wants to make our college a place where each student can grow and thrive—the student body must unify and provide specific, tangible proposals for the administration to implement moving forward. United, the student body wields enormous power to shift the course of our institution for the better. Let’s use it to ensure our commitment to adequately protecting each member from harm.

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