SIU students hold 3rd race relations forum, call for more action by administrators

Walks to class are commonplace on college campuses. For Southern Illinois University junior Michael Smith,  they can come with risks.

"As a student, I am honestly very concerned," he told Local 6.

He hasn’t been targeted specifically, but said recent campus chatter suggests he could. A video posted to YouTube, which has since been taken down at the request of university leaders, calls for violence against African American students. Smith calls it a disruption.

"It’s very, very difficult for us to organize, to plan events, to go to class when we don’t even feel safe," Smith said. 

There are students who are organizing. They are trying to put an end to what Student Government President Kevin Gettis says are violent threats. "It seems a lot more urgent. Things seems to be getting worse before they’re getting better."

The campus forum on race relations is giving students the chance to voice concerns and to look for solutions like campus-wide diversity training and hiring. "These were ideas brought to me from students.Places where students felt welcomed and appreciate these opinions. It felt that they are being listened to," Gettis said.   

Smith plans to use his voice for another year to make sure the campus climate doesn’t become more chilled. "It’s only when we have that open minded atmosphere then that’s truly only when the change can be seen," he said. 

SIU Spokesperson Rae Goldsmith sent us this statement: "We appreciate the leadership of our student government in advancing the conversation about ways we can constructively address intolerance on our campus. We have work to do as a community, and it will take all of us to understand the issues and contribute to progress."
 

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