White union debated

By Jami Peterson

A packed room of students heavily debated the need for white student unions at a racism forum Thursday night.

The discussion surfaced after an attempt to form such a union failed at Eastern Illinois University. Since then, numerous letters to the editor appeared in the Northern Star, making the issue well-known and controversial.

After reading a letter by sophomore Tom Sullivan encouraging white student unions, Black Student Caucus Adviser Jarvis Sanford and the BSC sponsored the forum. Sullivan did not attend.

The forum, held in Grant South Residence Hall, consisted of a panel of guest speakers, including Hall Director Rose Ann Fazio, BSC Resident Adviser Kelli Hinton, Senior Staff member Ade Colcer, BSC Representative Tina Reitzel and senior Eddie Handschuh. Management Associate Professor Bertrand Simpson served as moderator.

Simpson began the opening statements from the panel by warning students to keep an open mind and remain nonjudgemental.

Forming a student group is a good idea, he said, if the reason for forming it is to “promote a positive interest,” such as learning a shared language or dressing in native dress.

But, Simpson said, if a student group is formed “to bash someone else, I hope it never gets student recognition.”

adschuh said he would support a white student union if it was formed positively, like the BSU. The two unions could get together and “solve a lot of things,” he said.

Colcer said whites and blacks each have their own goals and “factors which make them come into being.” The BSU is necessary because “there is a threat to their (African-Americans) own existence,” politically, economically and historically, he said.

As a white student in the BSC, Reitzel said she has learned a lot. “I think people need to learn to understand each other better,” she said.

Freshman Ken Gregory, one of the few students at the forum in support of a white student union, said a union would help “pry out the racial barriers.” There is a “vast white culture,” he said, and by bringing in these issues and learning about them, racial barriers can be broken.

“Give white people a chance to learn more about you (African-Americans). Don’t hold a grudge (about what happened in the past),” Gregory said.

Sophomore LaToya Fox told Gregory to imagine being a white student in an all-black college. She said the difference is that white students can decide not to go, but black students have no choice but to accept being the minority. “We don’t have a chance to be prejudiced,” she said.

Senior Resident Assistant Derrick Rodgers said sometimes a white student does make an effort to join a black organization but is “kind of shunned” and made to feel uncomfortable.

But sophomore James Nerstheimer said that as a white student in the Black Choir, he doesn’t feel out of place.

“It’s a spice of my life,” he said.