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Unsung Founders Memorial draws debate

Students gather in Saunders Hall for “Representations of Blackness: That Table on the Upper Quad,” a roundtable discussion on campus memorials.

Students gather in Saunders Hall for “Representations of Blackness: That Table on the Upper Quad,” a roundtable discussion on campus memorials.

Following the demonstration, the group held a discussion in Saunders Hall, where students gathered Thursday night to discuss the memorial and its greater meaning.

Students present at the discussion voiced similar sentiments: They were there to learn and to raise their own awareness of campus history as it pertains to oppression of minorities.

Senior Aisha Rajput said she feels personally connected to the demonstrations because of the disrespect people show to the memorial.

“Rain or shine, snow or whatever, in whatever season it is, people still disgrace it,” she said.

Rajput participated in Wednesday’s demonstration and said it was difficult at times.

“It was a powerful movement for me because my arms were starting to shake,” she said. “But who else would hold it but me?”

As the discussion moved into smaller groups, students were able to voice opinions about the construction of the memorial and how it affected them personally.

Freshman Amu Muyanga wondered whether the memorial should remain on campus.

“Would you want to be misrepresented or not represented at all?” she said. “A decision has to be made, otherwise we would just be talking about it and walking by it every day.”

Rajput said she questions the reasoning behind the memorial.

“It seemed as if the whole intent of the monument was to be stepped on,” she said.

Senior Rachel Jordan said she did not know anything about the memorial until she learned about it in a class, saying if she had known more about it, then she would have been more affected by it.

Members of the group said they will spend the rest of the year educating the student body about areas on campus that represent oppression, including Saunders Hall — named after William L. Saunders, who was a state politician and also a Grand Dragon for the state Ku Klux Klan.

“Buildings here represent systems of oppression,” said senior Omololu Babatunde, a Real Silent Sam organizer. “We want students to relook at the places that they’re constantly walking through.”

Sophomore Ethan Tyler said he thinks the conversation is important even though he has not personally been impacted.

“Racism hasn’t impacted me since I’m privileged,” he said. “But I go on Yik Yak and see all the issues.”

Babatunde said it is important to continue discussing these issues because they are patterns throughout history.

“If you’re not having those conversations, how do you expect to see those changes you expect in the world?”

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