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Administration and BSU deliver statement on world tragedies

Martin Donovan, Staff Writer

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Members of the Black Student Union (BSU) worked in collaboration with administrative staff to write a statement commemorating various recent tragedies around the world. The statement was read during the Luther football team’s home game against Wartburg College on Oct. 21 and was followed by a moment of silence.

The statement was prepared by BSU president Harleigh Boldridge (‘18), Associate Director of Athletic Operations Alex Smith, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Renae Hartl, Vice President for Communications and Marketing Aimee Viniard-Weideman, Interim Dean for Institutional Equity and Inclusion Lisa Scott, and President Paula Carlson.

The statement explained the reason for including the moment of silence before the game.

“In recent weeks we have had much tragedy and devastation around this world,” the statement said. “Natural disasters including hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, acts of terror in Las Vegas and Somalia, and other tragic events have impacted our lives. Members of our campus community have close family ties with those that have passed and been injured and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this time. Please join us in this moment of silence.”

According to Boldridge, the aim of the statement was to support Luther community members.
“[The statement was intended for] Luther students and Luther’s community,” Boldridge said.

“That extends to the faculty, to the staff, to the administration, to our board of directors, [and] to our alumni. All those people who are still connected and showing support to members of that community, who might have family ties to these tragedies or feeling them on a human level.”

The idea for a moment of silence was proposed by a BSU member at one of their meetings. BSU’s original intention for the moment of silence was to pay tribute to the bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia. However, after Boldridge and Smith began communicating, they agreed that the statement should encompass other recentl tragedies.

“[Smith] and I had some email correspondence and we talked over a statement that was inclusive of a lot of the horrors that are going on around the world, besides just Somalia,” Boldridge said. “We tried to use terms that would allude to a lot of the different tragedies that are going on around the world, such as the flooding in India and Nepal. We tried to bring about the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the south side of the United States”.

According to Viniard-Weideman, the statement was intentionally left broad so that it could encompass the numerous catastrophes around the world.

“It was about how do we do this in a way that it isn’t just a general statement that is so generic that it means nothing, but it isn’t so specific that now you have people who are excluded,” Viniard-Weideman said. “[We wanted] to figure out how to put this language together in a way that had meaning and intentionality, but also you didn’t have an unintended consequence of someone sitting there saying ‘well what about this tragedy or this thing that hasn’t been named.”

Boldridge expressed her excitement with the administration’s efforts to work with BSU on writing the statement, as she believes this is a stepping point for future dialogue on campus to actively support students of color.

“I know some of the members of the administration have talked about having conversations with members of BSU about how do we support these students, what things are available on campus, and where are we lacking,” Boldridge said. “That’s the impression that I have got, which really excited me because I know a lot of students, regardless of who they are, sometimes feels that the administration is really distant and not really listening to students. I think this was a really good opportunity to recognize that we have been heard, and that the administration cares”.

Scott echoed this sentiment by indicating that she, along with other Luther faculty members, are working on ways expand discussions around campus.

“I am really interested in campus dialogue and there is a number of us on campus looking at dialogical models for the campus to be able to have difficult dialogue around topics that may be sensitive,” Scott said. “Being relatively new, that work is in its beginning stages.”

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The student news site of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa