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Students respond to Miami’s statement on George Floyd

Miami University is facing backlash after releasing a statement last week on the killing of George Floyd. 

The backlash began Saturday, when the university posted about the updated decision day for incoming students on its Instagram page. The post asked students why they chose to attend Miami. Members of the community were upset the university was posting about incoming students before creating a post addressing the killing of George Floyd.

“Read the room,” one user commented. “Where is the post condemning racism and supporting #blm (Black Lives Matter)?”

The university released its statement on Saturday but did not make any social media posts about it until the backlash began. On Sunday, the university posted its statement in full on Instagram — it was 80 words long.

Students were not satisfied with the university’s statement.

“I think what first caught my eye was the length itself,” said sophomore accounting major and black student Anthony Patrick. “And I think more importantly was just the broadness of it.” 

“I think many institutions, particularly PWIs (predominantly white institutions), when it comes to race issues, racism or prejudice often have a tendency to use really good words that sound great on paper but not follow it up with action,” he said.

Most of the comments on the university’s Instagram post were also negative.

“We appreciate the gesture of writing this statement as this minimal effort is exactly what most of us expected from you,” one user commented. “It's a good first step, and I promise you taking further financial, civil, legal, humanitarian action will not ruin your posh and polished aesthetic.”

Other comments urged the university to create an action plan to address racism on campus.

“No surprise coming from a university that has had several racial issues, and that’s just in my 3 years of being there,” one user commented. “Please do better Miami. We need a plan of action, not just prayers and condolences.”

Patrick said he also would have liked to see the university outline a plan of action.

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“ I think it’s actually [about] a plan and a series of actions following the statement,” Patrick said. “And I think that actually gives the statement merit, as opposed to, ‘We don’t condone racism.’”

Patrick pointed to working with multicultural organizations on campus and donating funds to organizations working to help the black community as ways Miami could create tangible change.

In response to Miami’s statement, many black students began posting the same image on Instagram to shed light on the lived black experience at Miami.

Students posted the quote, “To think in such a place, I led such a life,” followed by the words, “said no black student ever,” written underneath. 

In a written statement to The Miami Student, black community leaders, who wished to remain anonymous in solidarity to the entire black community at Miami, voiced concerns about the university’s statement and why they felt compelled to create the social media campaign.

“We must say that this flyer is not only a direct reflection of how Black students are feeling currently,” the statement reads. “It is a testament to how Black students at Miami have felt for far too long. It wasn’t until the release of Miami’s initial statement that the negligence we felt was confirmed, and their blatant ignorance towards our experiences on campus was truly exposed.”

Miami’s Vice President of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Ron Scott, did not respond to requests for comment but released a statement to the Miami community via email.

“I call upon the Miami community to have hard conversations about this injustice and to face the challenge of creating real, positive, lasting change in our nation,” Scott wrote. “I will be working with the Miami community and leadership team to coordinate our efforts.”

Scott also encouraged students to exercise their rights to vote and peacefully protest while taking steps to remain safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

At the time of publication, the university had not released an action plan to address student concerns of racism on campus.