Black Lives Matter: Math professors show support

Corryn Brock, Associate News Editor

Six Black Lives Matter flags can be seen flying on the west side, third floor of Old Main.

This is in support of African-American students and to express displeasure in the university’s decision to not fly the flag during African-American Heritage Month.

Math professor Charles Delman was the member of the department who brought up the idea of hanging the flags in the windows and said he is disappointed in the university for not flying the flag.

“When I heard that the university had decided they would not fly the Black Lives Matter flag on the flagpole, I thought it would be good to still have, as much as possible, a presence of the flag on campus,” Delman said.

Morgan Colvin, a junior political science major, started a petition last October to fly the flag in February, and she said she is glad the professors decided to do something in support of African-American students on campus.

“I think it is admirable. I love the fact that there are people who want to see the African-American population represented here on campus,” Colvin said. “If these professors did it, then why couldn’t the university? Stand with your students is all I ask.”

Colvin has been vocal in the past with her frustrations with how the Student Senate voted in regard to the flag; student senators voted in December to consider alternatives rather than raise the flag.

“It has been an uphill battle dealing with people who don’t want to learn or are incapable of learning about lives other than their own,” Colvin said. Everyone gave us alternatives but never exact answers.”

Of the six flags hanging, two are on the north side of Old Main, visible from Lincoln Avenue, in Delman’s and math professor Bogdan Petrenko’s offices. One is on the east wall and four can be seen from the south side of the building.

Delman said he thinks the flag should have been flown regardless of any political affiliation it may have.

“Black Lives Matter is a human rights movement. It’s a movement for equality among all people in the United States; we still have a huge problem with systemic racism that needs to be fought,” Delman said.

Delman said the Black Lives Matter movement simply means that lives of African-Americans need to be valued.

“It doesn’t mean that other people’s lives don’t matter, of course it doesn’t. It’s a statement that lives of black Americans have not been valued and they need to be,” Delman said. “What I hope is that students and faculty members take this opportunity to discuss this issue with African-Americans.”

Mathematics professor Nancy Van Cleave said there were several reasons she chose to hang the flag in her office, the biggest being an awareness of the white privilege she benefits from, and she said she wants everyone to have the same privileges.

Van Cleave said she feels it would have been better if the university had made the decision to fly the flag.

“Black students are a part of this campus. They need to be supported,” Van Cleave said. “What I’m hoping is that black students will feel that there is support here for them. It may not come from everybody, but (it comes) from a lot of us.”

Van Cleave said she sees the Black Lives Matter movement as an acknowledgement of an inequality in how people are treated.

“We’re not all treated equally and we should be,” Van Cleave said.

Peter Andrews, professor of mathematics and computer science, also hung a flag up in his office and was glad multiple people in the department did the same.

“I hope it shows that a significant number of people in the department are cognoscente of the issues and supportive of them, and I hope we’ve created an atmosphere here that’s supportive of the African-American students we have here.”

Andrews said he plans to hang the flag throughout the semester until his retirement.

Jeannie Ludlow, English and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies professor, hung a shirt up on her door with the Black Live Matter logo on it. Ludlow said she was disappointed the flag was not flown for African American History Month.

“This was an enormous missed opportunity for EIU to do the right thing and I was very disappointed in Student Senate leadership for not taking it more seriously and in university leadership,” Ludlow said. “The fact that they even think there could be backlash is the exact reason why EIU is the place where that flag should grow up.”

Ludlow said she feels she has to have something hanging on her door.

“I have tenure—I have a union-negotiated contract; they’re not going to do anything to me, so I feel that if there are people on our campus who do not have the courage or the conviction to hang the flag, those of us who do are honor-bound to do it,” Ludlow said.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].