Silence No More

November 17, 2015

By Jocelyn Cano, Marty Carlino and Cory Lesniak

Dressed in black and standing tall, dozens of African-American students at Dominican stood in solidarity with the University of Missouri and their fight against racial inequality. Sparked by protests around the nation and years of frustration, students all over the country are now making their voices heard.

On Nov. 12, students, faculty and alumnus stood not only in solidarity with Mizzou but also in protest of their own experiences of racial inequality at Dominican. Students (in protest) filled the hallways of Lewis Hall promulgating, “Silence no more.” Lined shoulder-to-shoulder, protestors blocked entrances to the dinning area of the cafeteria, making sure all would hear what was on their minds.

“This is us in solidarity with Mizzou, with Yale, with Wisconsin,” said Ambrell Gambrell, Dominican alumna, at the protest Thursday, “because we know what’s going on. You can act like you don’t know it’s happening here…we’re telling you now that it’s happening here. This is not to say that we haven’t talked to people who we’re looking at right now. This is not to say that we haven’t brought these issues to you, we have. They just have not been acknowledged. We have been kept silent. We want the whole school to know. We want the whole institution to know you are not living up to your mission right now.”

Various current students also vocalized their frustrations with micro aggressions on campus and with professors.

“Being asked in class if you’re a drug dealer by a professor that supposedly has a Ph.D., meaning that they [have] been teaching for a long time and they still don’t know how to teach to a multicultural class is just unfair,” Ahriel Fuller said. Fuller is a junior at Dominican who also serves as the vice president of the Black Student Union on campus.

“Having multiple faculty members and students support the cause gave the green light to execute the protest,” Fuller said. Students marched from the dining hall to President Donna Carroll’s office in hopes of having their voices heard. President Carroll was not present at the time but later commented that she is an ally.

“It sounded as if the student protest was thoughtfully orchestrated, raising real issues, painfully documented from students’ own experience. I am very sorry that I was not there to listen to their stories and accept their call for action…I am actually proud of our students for mobilizing. It demonstrates that they are engaged and looking for solutions,” President Carroll said.

President Carroll was not the only university official to comment on the protest. Dean of Students Trudi Goggin also stands in solidarity with students. Goggin said, “Students risked a lot standing up and speaking out. They exposed themselves and some of the hostility and ignorance they have experienced here­−this is a very vulnerable position for them−I am proud of their voices and the courageous stand they have taken. ‘Silent no more’−you are a blessing!”

Dominican’s Chief Diversity Officer Shelia Radford-Hill said, “I stand with students from all backgrounds whose love for Dominican challenges us. As an African-American, I am more aware of the struggles portrayed and know the value of organizing for change. I challenge allies to learn, grow and act together with students who feel marginalized. Let their voices ring in our ears every time we make decisions about academic and student support.”

Student protestors had their own ideas as to what could be a solution to fixing their perceived problems.

“I think cultural competency should be part of the tenure program. I think that teachers shouldn’t be allowed to get their tenure, unless they demonstrate that they can teach multiculture,” Gambrell said.

Fuller also commented that cultural competency training is their No. 1 priority. “Cultural competency training is the No. 1 demand. That has to happen, especially for tenured teachers, she said. If you’re going to teach, you have to know how to teach…there’s a way to interact with students.”

University officials are listening closely and are working on initiating changes.

“I think the greatest challenge is the recognition of and response to issues here at DU,” Goggin said, “We can all try to impact local, regional and national climate−but the clarion call yesterday was−this is not just an issue out there. We all need to address our own cultural ignorance and participation in unexamined bias. We must identify ourselves with our students and provide safe spaces for students to share their experiences so they will not be minimized, but validated−only with the recognition will we see the responsibility rests on everyone.”

Only time will tell what changes and improvements are made on campus but until then Fuller said, “If we don’t’ see any changes another protest will happen, and another one and another one until we see some type of change. You’re not going to stop hearing from us.”

Either way silence is no longer an option. “We want to tell our own stories now and you’re going to listen now. Silence no more,” said Gambrell.