The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have sparked outrage over the current policing practices used by the American criminal justice system. In response, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead has released a statement which “condemn[s] racism in all forms.”
However, students need to know what steps the university is taking to dismantle its racist legacy, which is visible throughout campus. Much of the campus continues to uphold the legacies of white supremacists by memorializing their names on buildings such as Baldwin Hall, Leconte Hall, the Special Collections Library, the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Mell Hall and countless others.
In November of 2015, grave sites believed to be those of enslaved people were found beneath Baldwin Hall. The discovery led to the erection of a memorial in memory of those buried under the building. The university’s secretive and blundered mishandeling of their legacies has led to concern about the administration's role “in the oversight process and campus conversation on slavery.” The university refuses to acknowledge its history with slavery despite being “built and sustained by enslaved residents of Athens.”
In addition, the city of Athens and the UGA Extension Urban Renewal Project bought out the Linnentown neighborhood through eminent domain to build the Creswell, Brumby and Russell Hall dormitories. The university refuses to accept that they are responsible for the displacement of a majority black neighborhood, claiming that over 40% "of the families affected by the project were white.” UGA and Morehead cannot continue to avoid acknowledging the university’s history of white supremacy. While the University, boasting of its diversity and “condemn[ing] racism” does not take steps to eliminate racism and white supremacy on campus.
On June 2, Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz and the commissioners announced a call to look into procedures to move the Confederate memorial on Broad St. While the state of Georgia prohibits the outright removal of Confederate monuments under state law, this is an active step taken by the city to dismantle its legacy of racism.
UGA must follow in the footsteps of ACC and begin removing the names of white supremacists from its campus in order to start addressing its legacy of racism.
Some other student suggested reparations include:
- Making a formal denouncement of its ties to slavery and white supremacy
- Creating a fund to help offset tuition for descendants of slaves and students of color
- Making more concentrated efforts to hire more black and brown professors
- Requiring students to take a class on race relations.