TO THE EDITOR:
What does "I am Miami" mean to you?
To some, "I am Miami" is a paradox; it's a way of life that many cannot get behind because they do not feel as though they ARE Miami. When many students feel some form of oppression - racism, sexism, ableism, classism, heterosexism or any other system of oppression - on a daily basis, it is hard to be "Miami." A campus climate like that is bound to foster resentment, hurt and frustration.
Of course, we are not the only university with problems like this, given the recent events at the University of Missouri. It is important to recognize that racism and other issues are alive at Miami, too. There are, however, many students who have made an effort to show solidarity with students of color at Mizzou and on our own campus.
This is the meaning of "I am Miami."
"I am Miami" is not what each student at Miami is, rather, "I am Miami" is what each student at Miami is trying to become. We want to encourage students to be accepting, responsible, caring individuals. "I am Miami" is a mantra to describe a standard and set of values that the university as a whole strives to become.
In light of recent events, it is easy to critique student activists because they disrupt the status quo and challenge people to reflect on difficult topics. However, student activism has been the catalyst for many movements and helped to bring about significant changes in our nation and on our campus alike.
Take Freedom Summer of 1964, when students trained in our very own Oxford, Ohio, at Western College for Women, and traveled down to Mississippi to gain voting rights for African Americans. While Miami may not have supported the initiative at the time, it is something that the university has grown to embrace. The current focus on systemic racism and other problems in universities across the nation presents a unique opportunity for Miami to stand on the right side of history.
Imagine looking back on this time and thinking about your stance on these issues. -- Were you actively against student discrimination? Were you actively showing solidarity? Or simply going through the motions with no opinion at all? "I am Miami" exemplifies a solidarity with people of all identities.
Our hope is that, together, we can bring inclusion to the heart of Love and Honor and respect student activists in their efforts. There are so many aspects of Miami University to celebrate and we, as the I Am Miami student committee, want every student to be able to share the opportunities that Miami can bring.
Unfortunately, that cannot be a reality unless we are all on board. To those who are already involved, thank you for fighting against oppression and progressing towards over-due changes. To those that want to engage but aren't sure how, here are some action steps:
Stay informed. Get information about campus issues and current events from multiple sources. Talk to student activists to hear their perspective.
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Call out the problems. This can be done in a variety of ways, including sharing an article on your Facebook page or calling out a friend for offensive comments.
Support initiatives. If you hear about protests, dialogues or other related events, do your best to show up. Using your body to demonstrate solidarity goes a long way.
Support people. If you see people taking a stand on an important issue, let them know you appreciate their efforts and that they are doing a good job.
Respect. Miami University should be a place where students feel comfortable expressing their discontent with current issues. Even if you disagree with a viewpoint, try to listen to the whole perspective and show empathy. It can be very intimidating and even dangerous to challenge systems of oppression, so simply demonstrating respect for individuals that do can make a difference.
Miami University is a scholarly community whose members believe that a liberal education is grounded in qualities of character as well as of intellect. We respect the dignity of other persons, the rights and property of others and the right of others to hold and express disparate beliefs. We believe in honesty, integrity and the importance of moral conduct. We defend the freedom of inquiry that is the heart of learning and combine that freedom with the exercise of judgment and the acceptance of personal responsibility.