Editorial Board: University administration needs to take action

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

A decade ago, the world saw massive protests after the 2008 financial collapse. From the G20 protests in Pittsburgh to the global Occupy Movement, the international system of economic inequality was revealed to the people of our generation, as, years later, the eight wealthiest people in the world own as much wealth as 3.6 billion people.

We continue to celebrate the wealth of these people — Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and more — as signs of our universal prosperity, despite the fact that 1 in 6 children, 1 in 4 Native Americans, and 1 in 5 Black Americans live in poverty. No person should worry about having a roof over their head, having food on their table, or having clothes on their back.

The United States’ jail and prison system capitalizes on this vast inequality, disenfranchising low-income groups. At the same time, America’s legacy of institutionalized racism has led to the disproportionate imprisonment of Black people. Prisons and jails function as one social institution in our global system of inequality.

Another is the American university. Traditionally, colleges are designed to lift up the stricken and create a new professional class, somewhere between the CEOs and the workers in the warehouse or factory. This was Andrew Carnegie’s original intention in creating Carnegie Tech, but this is not how Carnegie Mellon works.

In recent years, American colleges have only perpetuated inequality. A study from The Brookings Institute found Black Americans are, on average, $7,400 more in debt than white Americans four years after matriculation and $25,000 more eight years after. A second study corroborated the findings, concluding that Black Americans had $7,721 more in debt than white Americans, even among low and moderate income levels.

At Carnegie Mellon, only 4 percent of the population are Pell Grant Recipients, and 5 percent of the student body are Black. Almost half of the families in the United States are eligible for a Pell Grant, and almost 15 percent of the U.S. is Black.

Right as the Occupy protests in 2011 were winding down, a Black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was murdered in Florida. Trayvon Martin is just one of many. A few years later, another teenager, Michael Brown, was killed by police. In 2015 alone, 104 unarmed Black people were killed by police officers. 2018 saw another teenager, Antwon Rose II, killed in East Pittsburgh.

George Floyd was murdered on May 25.

A sum total of our unequal institutions, America’s racism and inequality are the fuel for the protests we see now. George Floyd's murder was the spark.

Carnegie Mellon, as a social institution that has not made active steps toward fixing the system of oppression, has allowed this historical evil to persist in our current world. Now is not the time for Carnegie Mellon to make empty statements. Words alone are not enough. Now is the time for Carnegie Mellon to stand up for what is right and take concrete action against racism and oppression.

A number of letters and petitions are circling campus, and we stand by all students, staff, and faculty who are fighting to create change in our racist institution.

Graduate Student Assembly Statement:

Open Letter to University Administration:

Confront Racist Policing Petition:

Confront Racial Prejudice at CMU:

Concerned Faculty and Staff at CMU: