Symposium creates cultural discussion

Senior Allison Robinson has spent four years encouraging conversation about cultural and ethnic issues facing students.Robinson’s idea evolved from forums on black and cultural issues and interracial dating to the Black Student Symposium held Tuesday in the Student Center Lounge.

Inspired by activist Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union program, Robinson created a similar panel discussion among black faculty, staff and students. The symposium was an effort to generate positive dialogue in the black community on campus, Robinson said.

“My co-moderator, James Earl, a senior speech pathology major, and I just sat down and brainstormed ideas about what we wanted students to talk about,” Robinson said.

Robinson and Earl posed several questions ranging from the disproportional female to male ratio to the responsibility of black students on campus to the panel. Audience members were also encouraged to ask or respond to questions.

“I really wanted it to be an open discussion of issues and ideas and not just a panel responding to questions,” Robinson said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Darron Turner, history professor Juan Floyd-Thomas, business school adviser Deidra Turner and Zoranna Williams, recruitment coordinator for the nursing school, represented faculty and staff on the panel.

When a question about barriers facing black students attending college was posed, most agreed education in black communities needed to be made a priority.

“If the education system looks at black students as a problem, then those students will feel alienated,” Floyd-Thomas said. “Parents also need to emphasize that black students need to get books instead of balls and microscopes as well as microphones.”

Students spoke of their responsibility to get involved as positive role models in black communities.

“I know that, right now, I don’t have money to give, but I can give my time,” said panelist Teneisha Brown, a sophomore social work major. “What I am giving will change, but the value of what I am giving doesn’t.”

Mixed feelings arose around the topic of administrative view and appreciation of minority students. Students felt uncertain in their admission. However, faculty provided positive reassurance.

“You were all chosen to be admitted because of what you brought to the table,” Turner said. “You bring a lot more than what reflects back to you in the mirror.”

One topic was more campus involvement from black students.

“I hear a lot of African Americans say they don’t like TCU because there are not enough black people on campus,” said Desmond Ellington, a sophomore theatre major. “I challenge them to get involved and step outside their comfort zone and meet new people.