Students from the University of the South, also known as Sewanee, walked out of class on Monday in a protest against campus racism.
The Sewanee community gathered on the university quad after Vice Chancellor and President Reuben Brigety issued a statement about a recent lacrosse game with Emmanuel College at which a group of students shouted racial insults at the visiting team.
Social media was abuzz soon after the announcement was made as students encouraged one another to attend the protest at 10:30 am. Several speakers noted that this act of solidarity aims to address a much bigger problem than the incident on Saturday.
University Chaplain Peter Gray initiated the protest by reading a few verses from the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a Black anthem.
Gray was followed by Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding President Sambhav Bansal and Director of Dialogue Across Difference Cassie Meyer, who called for unity against injustice.
“We know that our community as a whole is stronger. We cannot truly be inclusive until all of us know and feel the embrace of safety and belonging at Sewanee,” they said.
Brigety attended the protest and spoke in front of the community. He thanked the protestors for acting against “unspeakable and intolerable acts of racism by some of our students,” revealing that he had sincerely apologized to the Emmanuel College men’s lacrosse team.
“As a Black man, having to apologize to other young Black men for the vile, racist epithets that were hurled at them by some of our white students… is the most distasteful thing that has ever happened to me in my life,” the university president said.
In his speech, Brigety emphasized that the school’s response to this act will be a defining moment in its legacy.
“Believe me when I tell you, that literally what we do in this moment, over the course of the next several hours, will define this university for a generation. It must start with the identification of those people who are responsible for hurling those epithets today. Before the sun sets on the Memorial Cross this day, those who are responsible must come forward,” he added.