Letter to the Editor: The black experience at CMU

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

Our university prides itself on using collaboration as a gateway to innovation. This is evident in our group work oriented classes as we are taught that teamwork is a critical skill to have, yet we fail to take responsibility for our teammates. Instead their issues are there own. For too long we have deemed our classmates lack of “success” their problem. This is no different from making racial issues faced by blacks also “their problem”. We have miserably failed to see that problems faced by our fellow peers are our problem as well. The success of the group is not based on one or a majority of the individuals, but the collective. The same line of thinking should be adopted when considering the injustices faced by POC in particular blacks. Helping me, not doing it all for me, or being concerned about my issues does not in any capacity have negative repercussion to you. Helping someone that is behind does not impede your ability to learn more; in fact taking time to help someone with a part they don't understand only helps you learn better. It seems as though it is taboo to talk about two very relevant B words: 1. black 2. blind. Well I finally have the audacity to do so. Numerous students, faculty and administrators turn a blind eye to the fact that CMU poorly represents and treats black students.

Let's first consider the state of black students here at CMU. There are more people that look like me in the dining locations and custodial roles than there are in my own classrooms. I can name all of the professors that are black, as I have had the privilege of being taught by all but two of the six professors. In 2001, roughly 3% CMU’s faculty was black. The numbers are not drastically higher compared to the most recent data. In 2012, 1.8% of eligible black tenured and tenured faculty was black. That’s a 1.2% increase in 11 years. We need to do better. CMU uses the diversity card as a way to attract more students and donors, but how can we claim diversity when the statistics prove otherwise? Maybe we should be specific by what we mean by diversity. Is it amongst international students or academic interest? It’s certainly not a large amount of racial or ethnic diversity. The question now becomes why has the black experience at CMU not changed very much. The truth is I have no clue but that does not warrant the tendency to ignore the issue, which is why I demand we earnestly consider how we got to where we are today and how to make rapid and significant progress. What will it take for non black students and administration alike to see how ignoring blackness and covert racism is in fact condoning it. When will we start to see that not caring for our fellow peers and classmates is our issue. We as an institution should be responsible for the lack of the unpleasant experience of our fellow classmates, especially for black students. Standing up for issues faced by blacks is like a group project, you are evaluated on the input of all of the people not on the individual contribution. Blacks can continue to fight to end the injustices they face, but having non black allies will result in a more widespread and effective resolution of these issues.

Jahque Bryan-Gooden
Class of 2016
Decision science and international relations & politics