Opinions

Send all opinions to opinions@mercercluster.com. Submissions should be around 500 words, but exceptions can be made for longer pieces. Opinions reflect the views of individual authors only, not The Cluster or Mercer University. The Cluster reserves the right to edit opinion pieces for length.


Dear Mercer Students,

I have thought of so many different topics to write op-eds about; some that will make you laugh, some to make you think; some will even make you ponder about where you are going in this great big world. Today though, I want to discuss something that I feel is growing worse on college campuses across the country, and that is the use of drugs. This can refer to the abuse of prescriptions, marijuana or even harder drugs. Now for those of you who didn’t just roll your eyes and move on to the next story, please understand my concern.

I have been here for four years now, and through the good times and bad times, my focus has been on helping you all grow and develop while at Mercer. Some of you may think of me as the
“buzzkill” who enforces policy and stops students from having a fun time, but really those of us enforcing policy are following the old adage, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” While you all are technically adults, this adage still applies. If you get away with everything and have no boundaries while in college, you will carry that over into the real world, which is much less forgiving.

We have seen drug use by students go up nationwide, and despite whatever scientific research says, I believe that drugs are addictive. While they may not have the additives that cigarettes do that force addiction, your brain naturally likes the feeling you get while using drugs, and will gladly spur you on to give in to that feeling again. So regarding marijuana, if you like the emptiness and being “removed” from the real world, you will naturally do it again. Eventually it becomes who you are and defines you, and I think that you should be concerned anytime you want to escape the real world so much that you change your identity. Alcohol is often used as an escape too, so if you feel like you have to drink in order to have a good time or be able to function, you should be concerned as well. The song “Sober” by Pink really touches on this!

A great man once said, “There is a time and place for everything, and that is college.” While I agree that college is a time to spread your wings, know that this is also a time where you still have a few lifelines if you do make a mistake or need help. For one, we have a great CAPS office which offers free counseling. Once you leave college, good counseling usually starts at $100 per hour, so why not take advantage now? Also, you have people who care about your well-being. All of the area coordinators in Residence Life, along with many other Student Affairs professionals are here to help you succeed. If we can help you, whether through offering advice or just listening, that’s what we are here for. There isn’t a topic that is going to make us run out of our office covering our ears. Whether its addictions, religious discussions, significant other problems or just wanting to run a thought or idea by someone who will give an honest opinion, that’s what we are here for.

While I seem to have gotten off topic, I hope you understand the message that I am trying to get across: there are people here who care, and if you are having any sort of problems, let us know. We want you to do your best, and we would like to be able to help you before it’s too late.

There are roughly 2,300 undergraduate students who attend the prestigious Mercer University, and out of those 2,300, approximately 370 are student athletes. These student athletes have many privileges such as use of locker rooms, weight rooms and access to early admission. These athletes are treated very well in almost every aspect. There is, however, one factor at the University that does not exactly coordinate with a Division-1 student-athlete’s schedule. Here on campus, enrolled students who pay for meal plans have access to the cafeteria. This is no complaint about the food though, but rather about the hours that the cafeteria works under. Both students and athletes often find it hard to fit three meals into their day, and the cafeteria only seems to make this problem worse.

Athletes often times practice until later hours of the day, sometimes even until seven or eight o’clock. Between these long practices and school, athletes need to find time to eat so that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is understood before, and especially during college, that being a student-athlete is a lot like a job, with the work ethic and demanding hours. That being understood, with the amount of tuition paid, it would be nice to arrive to an open, welcoming cafeteria after a long day. Often times student athletes here at Mercer find themselves being asked to leave the cafeteria around 7:30 p.m., even though it is supposed to be open until 8:15 p.m., solely because, at the time, those athletes are the only students getting dinner. Along with early closings, the food that is being served at these hours is usually of much less quality compared to middle of the day or during early dinner hours. Not only are student athletes not sure if they will get to eat dinner, but also if that dinner is going to be nutritious or healthy in any way.

Also, the cafeteria’s weekend hours do not exactly fit in with student-athlete weekend schedules either. It is understood that a lot of Mercer students go back home to see their families some weekends, but most athletes are required to stay to work out, practice or even play games. It is understandable that the cafeteria would cut some hours due to the lack of students coming through on Saturdays and Sundays, but some cut backs seem a little excessive. Practice hours are usually longer on the weekends, due to no classes, and the cafeteria closes even earlier on weekends. The biggest problem on the weekends though is how late it opens for breakfast. The cafeteria opens for breakfast at 9 a.m., while in most cases teams start practice before 9 a.m. This leaves an athlete feeling hungry during practice, meaning they must wait hours before they can eat.

It is important to put this into perspective of a normal student who is not required to attend any practices or study hall sessions. Imagine being a student here at Mercer, and taking very demanding classes. For instance, you might be studying all night to perfect your major, and to make good grades. Once your studies are finished around 7:30 p.m. you want to go get some dinner, but you have no idea whether or not the cafeteria will be serving decent, nutritious food, or if it will even be open to eat at. Something has to be done about these problems.

In the case of the early closing hours on the weekdays and late opening hours on weekends, the cafeteria could possibly add another hour to each schedule. This extra hour could be worked and managed by any worker who would volunteer to do so, and workers be paid extra for this extra hour. Also, during these extra hours, the food served should meet the standards that the other food served during more demanding hours meets. It is important that student  athletes have proper diets, so that they can perform well. Is it not the main goal of our school’s athletic programs to excel? This is a growing problem for student athletes here at Mercer University, and it is necessary that something be done.

I first off want to thank Parker Van Riper for the tasteful response to my article in the Feb. 19 issue of The Cluster. From what I’ve heard, she provided one of the more gentle responses to my article, and I appreciate that. With that being said, I need to apologize for two things. First, the purpose of my article was not to offend, or to critique, but rather to inspire. I wasn’t pointing an accusatory finger, or calling anybody out, exactly. I was merely pointing out that it would be nice to see a bit more involvement between the different schools. 

Second, I would like to specifically address my comments regarding the fliers and promotions. It seems apparent that I did indeed miss some fact-checking on my part. Just because I didn’t see the advertisements doesn’t mean they’re not there. I do apologize for that bit. 

Overall, I hope we can all come out of this as colleagues and friends.

A rising desire among ROTC cadets and club sports teams has been to use an adequate weight room other than the Fitness Center, which is open to all students and staff in the University Center. As a cadet who has competed in the Ranger Challenge for our ROTC battalion, the use of a weight room with reinforced floors and rubber plates has become a necessity of which we have been deprived.

Even the wrestling team, who is in the NCAA conference, is not allowed to use any of the athletic fitness rooms. To be more competitive in aspects other than just NCAA sports, it is imperative that we non-NCAA athletes be able to use a weight room suited to our needs.

Olympic-style lifts are the most effective way of preparing for a competition like Ranger Challenge. This physically demanding race tests cadets’ skills, knowledge and fitness against other cadets. It requires running obstacle courses, heavy lifting and endurance to be successful at this event. What better place to train for this than a facility that is specifically designed for athletes who do similar activities?

All of the events require strong legs, a strong lower back and overall power. The main exercises for these muscle groups are dead lifts, power cleans, squats and other lifts that require movement from the floor with heavy weight.

Since the floor in the Fitness Center is not reinforced, heavy weights cannot be dropped. You might ask, “Machines take care of that, don’t they?” Machines do control where the weight moves and stops; however, they also inhibit the full range of motion by the user. The full range of motion is a major part of the workout. It engages secondary and tertiary muscles that may not be engaged on a machine.

Club sports teams need to be able to use these weight rooms as well. Especially the wrestlers, who attempt to move other people who are resisting them when they compete. The wrestling team stands out to me as the most in need of use of an adequate facility to train in. They need to be able to use a weight room that allows Olympic lifts as well as supports the weight being used. Our wrestlers compete in Division I tournaments across the country, yet cannot get the extra edge that they need to go further in their competitions.

I understand that the new NCAA teams being introduced to the university will make Mercer more prosperous than the club sports and ROTC program; nonetheless, it is unfair that those who also want to compete in something other than a major collegiate sport be discriminated against because of their funding from the university. A facility for the smaller programs to train in would help us become more competitive against other schools.

The use of suitable weight rooms for competitive teams that are not in the NCAA is vital because other teams deserve the same chance to succeed as their bigger counterparts. It could bring more notoriety to the school in the areas that are not as popular as major sports. Also, people who are interested in the smaller programs, such as ROTC, would see how well we do in competitions and want to join because of our reputation. The fact is that if this plan were to be carried out, it would be favorable for our teams and, more importantly, the university as a whole.

I had the privilege of chaperoning the bus trip down to Fort Myers, Fla. for the A-Sun Championship Game last week, and I just wanted to say how impressed I was with all of you who went. The bus rides were long, but so much fun, and everyone was well behaved on a Saturday night in Florida during spring break. We got to the game, and you all showed excitement that well surpassed the 12-1 ratio of FGCU fans to Mercer fans. I am positive that you all contributed immensely to our men taking home the Championship.

We asked you all to be classy, and you did not disappoint. The FGCU fans were some of the most disrespectful fans I have seen in years, and even when they cursed you out, and flicked you off, you did not retaliate. Some of you were even spit on (no hyperbole there), and still no retaliation. We asked you to stay in your section after the game to clear out some of the FGCU fans, and you all complied. Probably one of the best moments was our team running up to our section to celebrate with you all, instead of staying on the court like 99 percent of teams do. That was a special moment, and it would only happen at Mercer.

Mercer University is a special place with awesome students, and this experience reminded me of how privileged I am to be a small part of this great institution. I look forward to going on the trip with you all to Raleigh this weekend to bring that same class and support as our Bears take on Duke Maybe that Baptist heritage will help us cast out those Blue Devils!

On Saturday, March 8, the seven Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Georgia met at the Anderson Conference Center on Eisenhower Parkway for a general policy debate. All seven candidates are vying for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat occupied by retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R). The winner of the Republican nomination will likely face Michelle Nunn (D) in the general election this fall.

The seven candidates in the GOP primary are Paul Broun, congressman from Gerogia’s 10th Congressional District; Art Gardner, a patent attorney and political outsider; Phil Gingrey, congressman from the 11th Congressional District; Derrick Grayson, a conservative political outsider; Karen Handel, former Georgia secretary of state and 2010 candidate for governor; Jack Kingston, congressman from the 1st Congressional District; and David Perdue, former CEO of Dollar General and first cousin of former Georgia governor, Sonny Perdue (R).

The debate covered a wide range of topics, such as reflecting diversity and expanding the Republican Party’s appeal to minority voters, prioritizing defense and military spending, generating economic growth and creating jobs, reducing youth violence, discussing the economic impact that not deepening the Savannah harbor would have on the state, and concluding with a discussion about faith and religious freedom.

Listening to the candidates answer the questions, one could easily sense a theme of “the establishment vs. the outsiders.” Rhetorical jabs were repeatedly made at Broun, Gingrey and Kingston for their congressional voting records, which the three congressmen strongly defended as being consistent with Constitutional, conservative values. Perdue argued that we have a “full-blown financial crisis,” perpetuated by “our career politicians.” Gardner noted that his “grandfather wasn’t the president, [his] cousin wasn’t the governor and [his] father wasn’t a senator.” Grayson even remarked that he is “not sure if [he] is running against Republicans, Democrat-lites or plain old Democrats.” The division between the establishment and the outsiders was palpable.

The predebate straw poll results were announced after the debate. Handel finished first (343 votes), followed by Perdue (270), Gingrey (128), Kingston (85), Broun (37), Gardner (8) and Grayson (3).

After the debate, I briefly spoke with the candidates and asked them to summarize the central message of their campaigns.Broun told me that his campaign’s purpose is to “put this country back on a Constitutional course,” and to promote “limited government, low taxes, vibrant free-enterprise system, personal accountability and responsibility and a strong national defense.” Gardner stressed the importance of expanding the party’s appeal by building “a coalition within the conservative universe that includes all stripes of conservatives, not just … social conservatives.”

Gingrey expressed the importance of choosing the “most conservative of the seven of us that’s electable in November,” citing this as “the key” to his campaign’s message.

Grayson told me that “If voters are satisfied with their liberties and freedoms being violated… [he’ll] just go back home,” and that his message is about electing statesmen who “stand for the Constitution 100 percent of the time, and 100 percent of the Constitution.”

Handel said that her message is, simply, “results matter,” and that electing fresh faces is the only way to get different results.

Kingston summarized his message as one focusing on “jobs …education … having a job-ready workforce … balancing the budget and a strong national defense.”

Perdue focused directly on two major issues: the economy and term limits. He told me that his crusade is to “get the economy going and interject it into the gridlock between tax increase arguments and spending cut arguments,” and to “fight like crazy for term limits.”

Currently, the GOP primary race is extremely competitive, and the polls are constantly changing. If no candidate secures a majority of the vote on May 20, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on July 22, the winner of which will advance to the fall general election.

As a sophomore music major I feel the need to respond to the information presented in the opinions piece “A Note to Mercer’s Music School” from the last issue of The Cluster.  The opening paragraph was quite flattering to the music school and its students, something that I’m sure was highly appreciated by all those associated who read it.  However I’d like to address some of the information that followed.

The first issue mentioned in the article is the separation between the music students and the rest of the campus.  I’ve heard it frequently referred to as “the gap” and we are aware it exists.  However it is a little strange that music students are specifically targeted.  While true we do spend the majority of our time in McCorkle, it is simply due to the fact that our classes are all held in that building, which becomes true for most majors after their general education classes are done.

Music majors start into their core major classes from the first semester on.  While many freshmen have mostly general education classes their first semester, we are instantly submerged into our major with classes including music theory, musicianship and piano.  While that fact doesn’t help the gap between the music students and the rest of campus, it is necessary if a music student hopes to complete their degree in four years time.

The next paragraphs address the issue of a society in which fine arts are “dying out.”  Although I commend the attention to an important issue as well as recommend and encourage students to attend concerts on campus, I’m not entirely sure referring to Google as a source was the most credible way to draw attention to it.  The article then turns the blame onto Townsend and the apparent “lack of promotion” of our concerts.  This statement seemed to bother many music majors, especially those who work closely with the music school to ensure that concerts are advertised around campus.  We advertise through flyers and posters in public buildings, such as the CSC, as well as having the concerts featured in Bear Blurbs that go out to Mercer’s community.  Concerts are also advertised in the entertainment section of The Cluster, the newspaper you are currently holding.

The article then states that Townsend should “come to the students” and suggests that like students who participate in flashmobs and impromptu poetry readings, music students could bring music onto campus instead of simply in McCorkle.  While the idea is sound and inspired, no one simply walks up to an engineer and tells them to build things on campus because we want them to.  Simply because engineers, as well as music majors, are probably a little busy with classes.

It is also implied that Mercer’s music students are not involved on campus which is not true.  For example, the Mercer Singers are present at many school functions such as the Christmas Tree Lighting and Founder’s Day.  Music majors are involved on campus in many ways, some being RA’s and PA’s, some involved in Greek life and other extracurricular activities, as well as many having jobs on campus.  Just because we aren’t always carrying our instrument, doesn’t mean we’re not involved on campus.

The point of this article was not to be confrontational, but simply to set facts straight about the Townsend School of Music and its students.  We are aware there is a gap between our school and campus, the same as there might be between other majors.  We are involved on campus and would love to see fellow Mercer students at our concerts.  Many of us have non-music major friends that venture into McCorkle from time to time.  Everyone is welcome to stop by.

A little background, over the last couple of days, a lot of flyers popped up

Nomadic Lass / Flickr Hussung argues that SHAPE should focus on the harmful effects of drugs instead of the legality of substances.

Nomadic Lass / Flickr
Hussung argues that SHAPE should focus on the harmful effects of drugs instead of the legality of substances.

around Mercer’s campus. They contain internet memes, captioned with information about various drugs. And to be fair, some of them are clever.

This is an open letter to Mercer SHAPE. (Sexual Assault, Hazing, and Alcohol Prevention Education).

First, let me applaud SHAPE for their recent education flyer campaign. I’m sure it was well-meant, and it is important for intelligent individuals to be educated about topics such as drug use.

But here’s the problem: there are no sources listed for the information on the flyers. This places the reputability of the flyers below Wikipedia and the average middle school report on Christopher Columbus, both of which generally note the origins of their facts.

The flyers spout drug facts–which are already often controversial–without giving viewers anywhere to find additional information about how the facts were obtained. Students interested in learning more do not have an immediate avenue through which to pursue more information. Yes, a google search will give results, but an organization which sets out to educate students on drugs should do the heavy-lifting and find reputable sources to distribute to the student body.

Further, drug facts are often contested. A flyer saying “1/11 Marijuana users will become addicted”, will often be countered with the fact that marijuana does not have severe physical withdrawal symptoms. However, a brief trip to Psychology Today’s Article: “Is Marijuana Addictive?” points out some of the flaws in focusing solely on the physical signs and symptoms of addiction. (The article is written by a Harvard faculty member, which is important to know, since it sets it apart from most of what you find on the internet.) This article does not entirely close the issue, but it gives a better context for facts given about marijuana addiction.

It would have been extremely easy to link to such an article on the flyer in question.

Finally, I may have missed them, but I think it is important to consider which drugs we “target” when creating informational campaigns. We often focus on drugs which are illegal, harmful, and often used: marijuana, meth, abused prescription drugs, etc.

But should legality matter in terms of education? We should make decisions based on accurate information, and allow public policy to trail after. Laws should not dictate what we consider harmful or harmless. Although, it is still in one’s best interest to follow them.

That said, educational campaigns about drugs should be especially hard on tobacco use–partially because it is legal. While well understood, it is important to reiterate the harmfulness of the substance, given that 17.3% of adults aged 18 to 24 are current smokers. (Center for Disease Control, Tobacco, Adult Data)

I do acknowledge that SHAPE is open to expanding awareness of harmful legal substances–the A in their name stands for alcohol. I just think we should start lumping cigarettes in with illegal drugs, for the sake of creating a mental grouping based on effect, as opposed to legality.

While I honor the intentions of the group, I think the flyers could have been executed better. We cite sources for multiple reasons–and those reasons don’t disappear once class is over.

Ivan Bandura / Flickr Police form a barrier outside the Presidential Administration building in Kiev, Ukraine, on Nov. 24, 2013. Thousands attended a rally in favor of joining the European Union.

Ivan Bandura / Flickr
Police form a barrier outside the Presidential Administration building in Kiev, Ukraine, on Nov. 24, 2013. Thousands attended a rally in favor of joining the European Union.

Over the past few weeks, trouble has been brewing in Ukraine.

Protests began in November last year, because many Ukrainians were unhappy that then-President Viktor Yanukovich decided to suspend signing of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement. The Agreement would have brought Ukraine closer to the European Union. EU integration has brought many economic opportunities and other benefits to citizens of new members in recent years. Russia has spent most of the post-Cold War period gaining influence in Eastern European countries. The rise of a pro-EU government in Ukraine would be a political blow for Moscow – a blow which Russia is apparently ready to stop with force.

In January, protests escalated into riots. Ukrainian police were given permission to use force against protesters. The first death of a protestor occurred on January 21. Several prominent activists were attacked by police in the next days, some fatally. Throughout this crisis, Yanukovich met several times with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Yanukovich was impeached on Feb. 22 and fled to Russia, where he stated on Feb. 28 that he is still the rightful leader of Ukraine. The Prime Minister of Crimea, a semi-autonomous peninsula on the Black Sea, stated that he will follow the decisions of Yanukovich. Vladimir Putin successfully petitioned the Russian Duma for the right to use force in Ukraine on March 1.

The next day, Russian troops occupied the Crimea peninsula under the pretext that the Crimea peninsula is home to a large population of ethnic Russians – coincidentally, the Crimea is also home to Russia’s only Black Sea naval base. The Russian base at Sevastopol is leased from Ukraine, and a pro-EU policy would likely mean the end of that lease. Protests against the new pro-EU government also began in eastern Ukrainian cities such as Donetsk and Kharkiv. On March 3, Ukrainian troops were supposedly ordered to leave bases in the Crimea or face assault by the Russian military, though Russian authorities deny making such threats. Newly elected Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has called Russian intervention a “declaration of war.”

Fears are growing in Europe that the conflict may expand to Eastern Ukraine in a full-scale invasion. Polish tank divisions have been mobilized near the Poland-Ukraine border. Both Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and her Polish counterpart Bronislaw Komorowski have called upon NATO article 4, which states “[NATO members] will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of [them] is threatened.”

I spoke with my uncle, Tomasz Kraj, a professor at the Pontifical University

Mstyslav Chernov / UnFrame A protester hurls a piece of pavement at riot police during clashes on Dec. 1, 2013, in Kiev, Ukraine.

Mstyslav Chernov / UnFrame
A protester hurls a piece of pavement at riot police during clashes on Dec. 1, 2013, in Kiev, Ukraine.

of John Paul II in Krakow, Poland.

“It is possible to stop Russia. We can harm them economically. We can stop buying resources from them.” Speaking about how he believes things may pan out, he said “A war may arise from this. A lot will depend on America. Russia does not react to the soft. Russia needs to be dealt with sharply, decisively, and with consequences. It needs to feel pain.”

If Russia was truly concerned about the wellbeing of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, Putin would be calling for a referendum to be held in each province on whether that province should stay a part of Ukraine. However, expecting anything decent from a former KGB member with his track record is too much to ask for. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, he is “in another world.”

I feel that Western European countries must act more swiftly. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kiev on Monday. But all the US has done so far is cancel attendance at the G8 summit scheduled to be held in Sochi. The UK, France, and other EU members have stated that they will not be considering sanctions against Russia at this time. These statements are a bitter disappointment. By the time they act, it may be too late. Kraj said in our conversation that “many people here compare this to the situation before World War II.” Let us hope it will not end that way.

Marion S. Trikosko / U.S. News & World Report James Meredith (middle) was the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962. On Feb. 16 of this year, three Mississippi students hung a noose and a Confederate state flag on Meredith’s statue.

Marion S. Trikosko / U.S. News & World Report
James Meredith (middle) was the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962. On Feb. 16 of this year, three Mississippi students hung a noose and a Confederate state flag on Meredith’s statue.

Nearly 50 years ago, Sam Oni forever changed Mercer University when he arrived on campus in September of 1963. Unlike other African American students breaking the color barrier at higher learning institutions across the South, Oni was not escorted on to campus by 500 US Marshals nor was he met by an angry crowd armed with Confederate Flags, shotguns, rocks and whatever else they could get their hands on. Oni simply walked through campus towards his dorm room. At the time, Mercer stood as a progressive oasis amongst a desert of racial injustice.

Throughout this year, Mercer has commemorated the anniversary of its integration in an attempt to evaluate the progress we have made over the past fifty years in improving race relations not only here at Mercer, but throughout the United States. The progress we’ve made is obvious.  At first glance, Mercer’s student population is very diverse with students from several different socioeconomic backgrounds, races and religions calling this university their home. Two of my best friends here come from very different walks of life. One is an international student from a wealthy Hindu family in India and the other is an African American from Los Angeles who grew up in a Muslim household. I’ve never once felt like this University is made up mindless drones which are programmed to think and believe the same things.

That being said, we are only fooling ourselves if we truly believe that we have achieved Dr. King’s dream at this institution or in this nation. Over the past week, I’ve been exposed to events, both locally and nationally, which have forced me to reflect on how much progress we’ve truly made. Two Sundays ago, three University of Mississippi students draped a noose and the old, Confederate-inspired state flag of Georgia on the statue of the University’s first African American student, James Meredith. This is one of the most appalling and distasteful acts of overt bigotry in recent memory. This is 2014. It is not 1883 or 1903. Fear forced blacks into the periphery of southern society. If you did not follow orders, you would not survive. Pregnant black women were forcibly hung upside down, burned and had their abdomen cut open to induce labor only to have the child’s head stomped in. Men were forced to work crops at gunpoint. To read accounts of these appalling acts perpetrated against blacks in the post-bellum era highlights the sheer terror that came with simply being of a different skin tone. They were not citizens and justice was non-existent. In spite of all this, those students thought placing a noose around the neck of James Meredith’s statue was funny. Students here at Mercer also act in racially motivated behavior. Pockets of segregation exist throughout campus. I walk into the Caf and feel as if it’s divided. Students make bigoted posts and comments on social media sites and in daily conversation which feed off of racial stereotypes and ignorance. At times, I believe all of us here don’t feel apart of the Mercer community. Truth be told, it disappoints me and we should be ashamed.

Hearing Sam Oni speak Wednesday morning helped me realize two things. One: celebrating diversity doesn’t necessarily promote racial harmony. We have several student organizations aimed at celebrating the culture of a particular ethnic group, but where are the groups that bring representatives from each to discuss issues that affect all ethnic groups? To have civilized discussion with students from different cultural backgrounds could provide students with an entirely new outlook. While today there have been many strides in granting equal rights to African-Americans, the formation of a more hospitable racial environment is still far from over because we continue to suppress the violence and hatred that characterized Southern race relations of past generations. We pretend as if our past does not influence our future. Simply put, ignorance breeds hatred. In order to work towards a more racially harmonious society, we must acknowledge what lurks in the shadows. Two: this change will not come from the top down but from the bottom up. Oni’s speech stressed the importance of going out into the community and “tearing down the walls.” We must tear down the walls in order to reach each other instead of pretending they don’t exist. I implore you not as African-Americans or Whites, Asians, Latinos or Middle Easterners but as Mercercians and kind, decent people to continue the progress of this institution. I hope this message will not fall upon deaf ears. Those who represent our university tell us that we major in changing the world. I believe that we have the opportunity to prove it.