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Monday, March 18,2013

Fighting discrimination

MSU’s Beyond Coal and Black Student Association join forces

by Nyssa Rabinowitz
Tuesday, Nov. 29 — Two student groups are coming together to encourage fellow students and Michigan State University’s administration to start discussing how to address concerns about recent racial and health incidents on campus.
Following multiple incidents of racial discrimination within the student body, MSU’s Black Student Association attended a Board of Trustees meeting with a list of improvements that it wanted to see on campus in lieu of the events, said MSU Beyond Coal member Eric Price. The incidents involved students who wrote discriminatory terms on African-American students’ doors and also placed a black doll hanging by a noose outside of another door, according to The State News, MSU’s student newspaper. The administration did not appear to take the group’s suggestions seriously, Price said.
Similarly, Beyond Coal and other student environmental groups have attempted to speak to President Lou Anna K. Simon about making MSU, which operates a coal-burning plant, 100 percent coal free, which would be healthier for the students close to the coal plant who breathe contaminated air, Price said. While the administration convened a committee to look into moving away from coal, it has been unwilling to meet with the groups, Price said.
Simon addressed those concerns by writing in her October blog entry to the students, “I’m being called upon by vocal activists to meet with them, presumably to pledge to do the right thing by banning the use of coal in our electrical generating plant on the south side of campus. As much as I value dialog on every topic of importance to our students — this blog being one such effort — it is not appropriate for me to meet with any interest group or individual on the topic of energy transition until the committee has delivered its report.”
Both groups felt that their concerns were not properly acknowledged, so they are joining forces to host an event to try and inspire students to get involved in their campaigns, said Talya Tavor, president of Beyond Coal.
“Recently on campus there’s been a lot of student unrest about the fact that our voice isn’t being heard,” Tavor said. “People on campus seem pretty dejected right now. They seem uninspired which is the opposite a university should be feeling.”
The groups have invited a guest speaker, David Bullock, president of GreeNation, to speak at a forum tonight about the recent events on campus in the hopes that it will inspire students to get involved and make their voices heard, Tavor said. GreeNation is a nonprofit group aimed at connecting sustainability with social equality.
This is the second time Bullock will speak to the environmental groups on campus, Price said. He also spoke last spring at a clean-energy forum about methods to move away from coal, Price said.
“When he spoke at our event last year, he was really inspirational,” Price said. “We’re hoping to educate people on these issues and show people that they have the opportunity to voice their demands and their concerns.”
The event, in 109 South Kedzie Hall, is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It’s free and open to the public.
“It’s empowering to have people say we will not be quieted and we will not take no for an answer,” Tavor said.
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