Student Senate hears presentation on Black Lives Matter flag

Analicia Haynes, Editor-in-Chief

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Two students who started a petition to fly a Black Lives Matter Flag in the South Quad directly underneath the American flag during African-American Heritage Month presented the topic to the Student Senate Wednesday night.

Morgan Colvin, a junior political science major, and Keshyra Bluminberg, a junior English secondary education major, answered several questions they have heard regarding the movement and their petition and gave an update on where they are in the process and what they have to do next.

“This topic is uncomfortable and it’s something that a lot of people do not want to talk about, but it’s something that needs to be discussed,” Colvin said.

Bluminberg cited the university’s mission statement as one of the reasons for bringing the flag to campus.

The statement states, “The University community is committed to diversity and inclusion and fosters opportunities for student-faculty scholarship and applied learning experiences within a student-centered campus culture.”

“What that means to me is (Eastern) is committed to adjusting to the needs of all its students and adapting to the needs of all its students,” she said regarding the mission statement. “(Raising the flag) would also show the African-American students on campus that EIU cares about the struggles they face in their daily lives.”

Ultimately, Colvin and Bluminberg said they want to see more diversity on campus and want students to feel represented.

“We’re not saying that EIU is not diverse or not focusing on diversity,” Colvin said. “We want to see more.”

Colvin listed questions that she heard around campus and answered those questions in front of the student senators.

The questions were: “What about all lives?” “So you’re saying Blue Lives don’t matter?” “Isn’t (the movement) only addressing police brutality?” and “Isn’t (the flag) only going to promote violence against police and white people?”

“We’re not saying that all lives don’t matter, we know that all lives matter, of course all lives matter; we are all facing the issue with police brutality in this country all together but what we want to say is that we wouldn’t be up here today addressing this issue if it wasn’t a problem,” Colvin said.

She said what they are trying to do on campus is make everyone feel equal and tell African-American students that they matter.

“The movement doesn’t take away from other people’s lives; it just will focus on ours for once in this country,” Colvin said.

She also said they care about the police officers and their lives matter as well, but she said there is a huge difference between race and occupation. Therefore, the two should not be compared to one another.

And she said the movement itself is addressing more than just police brutality, it is targeting racism in general and the discrimination that African-Americans continue to face on a daily basis.

She said it does not promote violence, despite other groups calling the movement “radical.”

“It’s finally giving us time and the platform to actually discuss and talk about these issues, and that’s why I feel like the Black Lives Matter flag would be very beneficial on our campus,” Colvin said.

Student Body President Rebecca Cash asked how they would handle counter-protests.

Colvin said everybody has the right to express their opinions, and she welcomes people to exercise their right.

When asked about vandalism, Bluminberg said that it should not be the job of two students (her and Colvin) to ensure security on campus and said that they will make sure to work with the University Police Department to make sure they are looking out for potential vandalism.

Colvin said she hopes that will not happen but said it would be very disappointing if it did happen.

The end goal, Colvin said, is to educate people about the flag and the movement and to help others understand the daily struggles that African-Americans face.

As of right now, Colvin said they are focused on getting more signatures and will set up a meeting with Eastern President David Glassman to discuss the petition further.

They said they do understand that the final decision is up to the administration but asked senators to be the voice for their constituents and show their support.

“A lot of people on this campus want this,” Colvin said. “You have to be able to speak and give that voice (to the students).”

Alicia Matusiak, the student vice president of student affairs, said when she met with Mona Davenport, the executive director of the Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement, and Shawn Peoples, the Title IX coordinator, they recommended establishing a sub-committee dedicated to the flag and reaching out to several organizations on campus to join the committee.

“I’m thinking about doing that and doing all the due diligence that I can before we come up with a resolution,” Matusiak said. “It’s not for or against (the flag) it’s just research.”

Matusiak encouraged senators to talk to students in their classrooms and ask them questions such as “Will this create controversy on campus,” “Does this flag represent African-American heritage month,” and “How can we ensure the safety of all students?”

Zac Cohen, the executive vice president and acting speaker of the senate, said the Student Senate will open up the topic for discussion at next week’s meeting.

Analicia Haynes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].