SUNY Cortland panel discusses race and discrimination on campus

CORTLAND, N.Y. – SUNY Cortland’s Black Student Union held a town hall meeting Tuesday to address issues of race and discrimination on the college campus.

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The event, held at Old Main Brown Auditorium, was open to the public and featured a panel discussion that included students, faculty and staff of the college.

Michael Guity, a student and president of BSU who moderated the discussion, said the event was held in lieu of recent events on college campuses across the nation, including protests at the University of Missouri and Ithaca College

"As we address the issue of race here on SUNY Cortland’s campus ... it is best that we acknowledge what Cortland students of color are experiencing,” Guity said.

Related: SUNY Cortland's Black Student Union holds march against racial injustice

President Erik Bitterbaum and his cabinet sat on stage alongside five students from SUNY Cortland. The students, who are members of the BSU, served on the panel and shared their experiences as a minority on the college campus.

“My junior year I really 'woke up,'" said Ricardo Destinvil, a senior at SUNY Cortland. "I took some classes on Africana Studies and everything started to make more sense to me. On this campus, I have had some amazing opportunities that have been offered to me, and I do have some tough times where I literally sat down and cried myself to sleep."

After the speakers were finished, the audience presented the panel with questions, including, “What can we, as students, do to make other students feel safe, comfortable, and accepted?” The panel and audience discussed topics such as these for the remainder of the meeting. Vice President Sharer proclaimed, “Sharing stories is a large part of how we learn.”

The touching accounts from the students presented some audience members with a new kind of awareness of discrimination on campus.

“I was impressed with the turnout, as well as with the discussion between the audience and the panel," said Mallory Rosch, a student at SUNY Cortland. "I didn’t think I would gain a better understanding of the topics being explored, but I was definitely proven wrong."

As the Black Student Union presses for change, the community must come together to work on imminent issues of race and discrimination, President Bitterbaum said.

"We're only going to master this by working together,” he told the audience.

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