Penn State students donning signs about diversity, segregation and oppression silently walked through campus Thursday with the hopes of promoting a socially just campus.
Members of the newly-formed student group PSU For All Student Equality (PSU-FASE) promoted their message of diversity as they silently walked across campus.
Students held signs that read “Indifference to Oppression is Oppression” and “Integration Not Segregation.” Several members also walked with tape over their mouths to emphasize their commitment to a silent, peaceful walk. About 30 students, faculty and community members participated in the walk.
The walk began at Pennypacker Hall in the East Halls area and participants walked across campus and through several buildings, including the HUB-Robeson Center.
The walk culminated with the group walking through Old Main.
After the walk concluded, students hung signs on the wall outside Old Main. The signs read “Education Not Marginalization,” “An Injury to Faculty is an Injury to All” and “People Without Speaking People Without Listening…No One Dared to Disturb the Sound of Silence.”
Members from various multicultural and student groups attended the walk.
PSU-FASE was formed after an incident involving the Chi Omega sorority and a photo the Panhellenic Council deemed “offensive.”
The photo depicts members of Chi Omega wearing ponchos and sombreros. Two members are holding signs that read “Will mow lawn for weed + beer” and “I don’t cut grass I smoke it.”
Following the incident, University Park Undergraduate Association President Courtney Lennartz (senior-health policy and administration) created a Diversity Awareness Task Force.
The task force is currently writing a proposal to present to the Faculty Senate at its upcoming meeting in January, Ryan Brown (senior-integrative arts), chair of the task force education subcommittee, said.
However, some students felt that a different approach was necessary.
Following the initial meeting of the task force, some students formed PSU-FASE, which is not affiliated with the task force.
PSU-FASE is a “coalition of students who are bringing attention to racial and social inequality, specifically the marginalization of Latino students and faculty,” Grace Delgado, the PSU-FASE adviser and a professor in the history department, said.
Delgado, who is also the adviser for the Puerto Rican Student Association, was approached by Manuel Figueroa (junior-philosophy and political science), the president of PRSA. Figueroa is also involved with PSU-FASE.
Jake Plevelich said he heard about the walk through Figueroa and was immediately interested.
“In the twenty-first century we shouldn’t tolerate twentieth century expressions of intolerance,” Plevelich (senior-history and political science) said.
John Ochoa, a professor in the Spanish department and director of Latino studies also participated in the walk.
For the walk, Ochoa dressed in a poncho and hat and carried signs that read “Will teach you for your parents’ $” and “(¡tenured!) Ph.D. (and Mexican).”
Ochoa said he was pleased with the outcome of the silent walk.
Delgado echoed Ochoa’s feelings, saying she also thought the walk had a good turnout.
“It was indeed a multi-cultural affair, one I think is indicative of the great Penn State spirit for equality,” Delgado said.
PSU-FASE is already making plans to move forward next semester. The group plans to meet with members of the administration to achieve their objectives, Delgado said.
PSU-FASE has written a list of goals that they plan to share with the administration, Figueroa said.
The objectives include changes to the curriculum to encompass “classes that meet specific curriculum requirements in the study of ethnicity, sexuality and race…” Figueroa wrote in an email.
According to the email, PSU-FASE wants to see a 25 percent increase in the Latino student population by 2015. The group also wants an increase in Latino faculty members as well as the creation of a Latino Studies Department.
At the end of the walk, Figueroa said he was encouraged for the future.
“The enthusiasm shown by the people who marched was great,” he said.