Reflect On Our Past Before Planning For the Future

Bry Reed ’20

Photo courtesy of Bry Reed

Each year, the Student Government Association (SGA) election season rolls in full force as bulletin boards across campus become prime advertising space. Glossy, vibrant posters featuring the faces of smiling candidates line our walls with promises of a better future for Davidson College if we make the right choice. 

The campaign strategies do vary. Some highlight issues of transportation and others use words like “diverse” to alert us to lack of food options. 

Yet, as I walk from Chambers to the Union and all around our liberal arts Mulberry bush, I am left with a lingering feeling that this election cycle is incomplete. What could be missing here? Davidson’s SGA is politics at its best. Posters, check. Bullet points, check. Debate, check. But, underneath all the production value, I am left asking: where is the work?

The posters for this year’s election, while complete with an abundance of bullet points, did not entice me to vote. I did not see my needs reflected in them. I did not see critical change being proposed. 

Instead, I saw two camps battling it out to give the people something. I am not convinced, however, that either campaign team was getting to the heart of Davidson College’s flaws—of which there are plenty.

 Now, let me be clear that this is not an attack on any one candidate (or two). There is little need to condemn individuals running for a campus-wide election when there is so much more to be said about Davidson College as an institution. 

The change that I would need to see to be confident in a better future for this school runs deep. It requires an unearthing of Davidson’s deepest skeletons and action that will dismantle Davidson’s monotonous track record. I am not asking for something….I am demanding it.

I demand that Davidson divest from its tradition of white supremacy. Davidson College was established in 1837 as an institution meant for the education of the elite sons of southern slave owners. These are our college’s undeniable roots. 

For change to be made in the present day, in the SGA and across campus, we must recognize this history. More than recognizing our past, however, we must have an understanding of how this foundation continues to impact our future. 

We are currently in a moment where students are pushing Davidson to make structural change that starts to interrogate this history and make tangible change. 

As outlined in the “Petition for Just Admissions,” our school is a college that is overwhelming white, wealthy, and privileged due to the institutional nepotism of legacy admissions which gives preferential treatment to children of Davidson alumni. 

This current status cannot be divorced from our past history of racial injustice; it is quite literally our legacy. To be better now, and in our future, we must understand where we have been. 

Until an SGA campaign grapples with Davidson’s history and charges forward with action to dismantle our horrendous wrongdoings, I will not be satisfied with any of the bulletin points. 

This is a candid, hefty stance considering I myself did not pick up my pen and register to run for office. The harshness of my non-SGA status comes from my belief that radical change does not start from a ballot box. 

It starts when students are no longer content with the institutional racism and classism that are commonplace on our campus. 

It starts in classrooms after students are erased, silenced, and overlooked for failing to fit unspoken prerequisites of masculinity, whiteness, and class privilege. 

It starts in the Black Student Coalition after first-year students are brought to tears over the realities of racism and all its violence on the mind, body, and spirit. 

It starts when students, faculty, and staff gather together collectively and demand that Davidson no longer remain complacent in our allowance of bigotry and hatred—no matter how micro the aggressions may seem. 

It is on our school to commit fully to the project of radical change. Students are giving the administration a road map for the radical changes we need with every list of demands, like Project ’87 Revised, and each petition, like the “Petition for Just Admissions” and “Petition for Jewish Studies.” 

It is now on administrators to listen, learn, and act accordingly. It will not be pretty or smooth, and if it is then we are doing it wrong. It will be painstaking and infuriating labor, but my hope is that at its end, there will be a Davidson College that has finally done the work.

Bry Reed ’20 is an Africana Studies major from Baltimore, Maryland. Contact her at brreed@davidson.edu.


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