Quadray Kohlheim, president of the Black Student Union, took time Saturday to answer a few questions from The DM Editor in Chief Adam Ganucheau about the desecration of the James Meredith statue and race issues at The University of Mississippi. Below are his full responses to the questions.
Adam Ganucheau: What is the BSU’s stance on everything that has happened this past week?
Quadray Kohlheim: The Black Student Union is highly upset and unwilling to tolerate the actions from this past week. This incident intimidated and hurt many individuals at our institution. The actions are a step back in the progress that has taken place over the past 51 years. The incidents are deeply hurtful and painful; however, the Black Student Union is aware of the university’s efforts to eliminate all acts of hatred and this is helping students work through this issue. BSU and other African American student leaders are united and are currently listening to the voices of the students we represent, and our interest is in working with the university to strategically and substantively handle these issues.
AG: Do you feel that Ole Miss is threatening to African American students?
QK: I do not agree with the word threatening; however, the University of Mississippi is a challenging environment for African American students. In addition to dealing with the pressure to academically succeed (which is the African American students initial focus), students have to deal with their own personal identity and development while here. We have to process the history of this university and at the same time try to find a connection to an institution that has constant reminders of what “used to be.” Specifically hard to process is the monuments, buildings, and various symbols that remind us that we (African Americans) were once not welcomed here.
AG: Do you think that IFC Greek life at Ole Miss plays a significant role in the problems that have occurred on our campus?
QK: It is challenging to directly identify the root of the problems that African American students experience at Ole Miss, particularly those related to race, because we ourselves are a diverse community. However, history itself gives proof that members from IFC Greek Life contribute heavily to this issue. The organizational culture of Greek Life in general fosters this homogenous mindset that for some reason leads some of its members to feel comfortable behaving in racist and other discriminating ways. I dare not isolate the problem solely to the IFC, and I would like to commend the strong statement made by the IFC, which appeared in the DM on last week. It truly spoke volumes that this segment of the student population willingly took a stance on the issue. Their response reflects progress of our institution. It is my hope that in the future they will work even more with groups such as BSU, NPHC, etc., to find a way to bridge that gap between all cultures, backgrounds, and orientations of all students at the University of Mississippi.
AG: What should Ole Miss do better to ensure that these events don’t keep happening?
QK: It is difficult to specifically pinpoint what is missing in the university’s efforts to correct and reconcile these events because I don’t believe there is one solution. BSU has reached out to other African American student leaders. We want to know that the university is actively pursuing the law to the fullest extent and ensuring that all acts that are deemed intolerable (like the one committed by the three students) are punished. We feel something that allows you to punish students when they act like this needs to be created. There are also other matters on campus need to be addressed, and several student leaders will soon present their ideas to the administration. Students need to be educated about what being a student at this university means, and this needs to continue through the student’s experience. The University needs to continue to update students, and ALL students need to feel that they have a voice. This week, BSU will unite with One Mississippi and ASB to support students having a voice and to create a way for students to hear from our school’s leadership. Lastly, it is time for the university to put its money where its mouth is. It is time for funds to be directed toward areas that will have a substantive and long-term impact toward progress and diversity. I am hopeful that this will happen, considering the university’s announcement of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and other departments alike.