By DaShanae Hughes ’21
“We see you.” “We hear you.” “We’re there for you.” It’s the Davidson company party line time and time again, whether it be the white supremacy across the world or the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I ask, who do you see, Davidson? Who do you hear? Who are you there for? Recently, Davidson College administration announced that they would be allowing students back on campus in August against the many voices of students they say they hear. This decision is severely negligent of the many immunocompromised students that make up our campus and also the many older faculty and staff who are the most affected by this virus. The email also mentioned that, “students with health issues that preclude returning to campus will be able to take classes remotely, though some classes may not be available remotely.” How is this fair at all to immunocompromised students or students who need certain classes to graduate next year? How is this decision fair to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) on campus who are at the greatest risk for contracting the virus?
In many emails from the administration, they say things like, “I am so sorry that we enable this harm to happen to members of our community,” “We must work to build a more just campus. We will get through this in part because we have this community and each other,” “We’re here for you,” “We’re here to help.” The quotes mentioned are just a few of many where the administration touts that they are here for us; they declare that racism is bad, and that they are supporting us during the pandemic, but they have consistently shown how little they care for minorities on campus with their rudimentary action steps and blanket statements.
The day we received the announcement that classes would be ending and we were told to leave, many students found it fitting to throw parties or throw toilet paper in trees. A student thought it would be funny to put a Corona beer can outside of a Black resident advisor’s door. Students threw glass bottles off of balconies and furniture out of apartments. This is all within the day we received the announcement that we needed to leave campus. During our first stages of lockdown, we also had a student organizing the protesting of the quarantine that had taken place in North Carolina. This is only one student, but I’m sure many others may have shared their sentiment as evidenced by social media comments. From this behavior and countless other incidents perpetrated by our counterparts at Davidson, I don’t trust our campus to abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or campus guidelines listed in our school-wide email.
As a Black woman on this campus, I find this decision on point with how Davidson has taken care of students’ needs in the past. We had a reported school shooter situation that had us under lockdown, but soon after being notified that it was a false alarm, professors continued to teach as students were obviously distressed. We had two Neo-Nazi students on campus, one of whom was no longer enrolled at Davidson, but students received very little information and felt uncertain about whether they would be kicked out or not. The list goes on and on, but this decision has been on course for how little the institution cares about not only immunocompromised students, but also Black students, faculty of color, and students of color. While many face the hardship of not partying with their friends or destroying our beautiful campus, we should think of the members of the Davidson community who will be more affected by a return to campus in the fall.
According to an article by APM Research Labs, “Black Americans continue to experience the highest overall mortality rates and the most widespread occurrence of disproportionate deaths.” From this article, we can see that BIPOC are more deeply affected by the virus than our white counterparts. Although Davidson may be a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), I would hope that the administration cares about the small number of BIPOC on campus just as much as they care about the predominantly white students at this institution. It’s important that Davidson heeds my call at this time to have all remote classes so that we are not risking even one death for the sake of social and academic gatherings. BIPOC members of the Davidson community are at such a high risk of dying from this virus and the racism that continues to plague our world and even our campus. I encourage the administration to turn the tide on how it has ignored the needs of minorities many times in the past and to actually listen to us this time.
Furthermore, I also understand that Davidson’s campus may be the safest place for many students who have unstable housing situations or food insecurities and such. They should have access to Davidson’s campus during this time. I also have felt and understand how mentally draining taking online classes without social interaction can be, but there are many of us who would be at a much higher risk (the risk being death) than others if we were to return. According to The Charlotte Observer’s June 21st article on Mecklenburg County cases, “The amount of new cases identified daily has increased in recent weeks, as has the amount of COVID-19 testing in Mecklenburg County. Progressively less social distancing aides the spread of the virus, health experts warn.” With cases continuing to increase in Mecklenburg County, it doesn’t make much sense to me why Davidson would want students to return so early, when our county is such a hot spot for cases as well. With this, I ask Davidson to see me and hear me when I say that we should not return to campus this fall.
DaShanae Hughes ’21 is a senior Sociology major. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A previous version of this article stated “It’s important that Davidson heeds the call of students of color and Black students at this time to have all remote classes so that we are not risking even one death for the sake of social and academic gatherings.” The language has been updated to reflect the writer’s individual opinions to avoid suggesting all BIPOC students share the same view. Updated 6/25/20.