Ava McLeod Portrait Picture

First-year Ava McLeod is the first ECOS Culture Council Liaison. 

Dear Eckerd,

Hello sunshine. You probably know me as one of the very few Black students on campus. I have to say, I’ve been enjoying my time here, for the most part. The weather is inviting and warm, there's a beach only a few minutes away and when I feel the need to escape, I can hop onto a paddleboard and visit a local estuary. 

But there is one area that is severely lacking here. I find that when I am walking around campus, I do not feel like I belong. I feel as though I am an outsider looking into what I could be a part of if only I had a lighter complexion. Have you guessed the problem? Do you know the area where improvements must be made? I can give you more examples if you’d like, such as the fact that there are only three Black professors on campus. Or how the only representation I, a Black student, have on this campus comes from the dining hall workers and landscaping staff, making me feel as though I live on a plantation rather than a university. 

If you haven’t guessed what the problem is already, Eckerd, it is the diversity (or lack thereof) on campus. Tell me why an issue that has been present for decades has not been fixed. Tell me why when I hear students saying “Keep Eckerd Weird, yeah right, it’s more like Keep Eckerd White,” there is no protest, no rebuttals bubbling in my throat but instead a disappointed sigh because I know the statement holds some truth. Tell me why it is my job as well as every other Black, indiginous and students of color to educate our white companions on issues and history that they should already know. Where are the general education courses that teach about Black history, aka the American history that always seems to be conveniently forgotten? Why Eckerd, why? 

I hear your empty promises; I’ve heard them for quite some time actually. Eckerd, I hate to say it but you reek of performative activism and white liberalism. It should not be taboo to discuss racism in America. I should not have to fight tooth and nail to get students with BLM signs in their dorm windows to attend a weekly Afro-American Society meeting that only lasts an hour, or watch a 90 minute free movie about historical events that should be viewed as important in everyone's eyes, not just my own. It makes my skin crawl that there is no separate office which deals with issues involving racism on campus and racial misconduct but rather it is all grouped together under Title IX. If you don’t understand the problem with this, Eckerd, let me put it plainly for you: issues involving racial misconduct should not have to compete with issues involving sexual misconduct because one almost always gets put on the backburner (usually racial misconduct in your case) and is never addressed. That is why I, and many other BIPOC on campus, must rely on upperclassmen to provide a list of racist professors to avoid. It is 2021, why am I still worrying about a problem my ancestors had to deal with in the 1900s and earlier?

I could go on and on but I shouldn’t have to constantly tell you how to be a decent human being, Eckerd. I shouldn’t have to tell you that tokenizing the few Black students on campus and cramming as many BIPOC into your advertisements is disgusting, Eckerd. It is not my job nor any other BIPOC on this campus to nurse you into becoming an empathetic, inclusive human being. Throwing every issue under the sun that includes diversity, equity and inclusion onto the unsuspecting lap of one of the very few Black faculty members on campus is not how these problems are fixed. Believe it or not Eckerd, you have to do some work too. I, as well as a plethora of the BIPOC students on campus, have been carrying this burden for far too long while you just sat there and watched, holding a fist high in the air as if that makes the load any less heavy, any easier to bear. 

Now I will admit that I am hopeful change will come soon, and I understand that change is slow and arduous, but I need more from you Eckerd. I am done asking for you to do the bare minimum and applauding you when you decide to do so. I need action plans. I want to see with my own eyes more BIPOC on this campus before I leave. Eckerd, you have so much potential to be great. You are filled with caring students that want to take action but don’t know how. But you need to be there with helpful resources and information. The ball is in your court.

Regards,

Ava

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