To the Georgia Southern University administration:
This is my first semester at Georgia Southern University, and it is safe to say that the events surrounding Jennine Crucet’s guest discussion were not what I had hoped for in a fresh start at a new college. Over the past semester I have worked to acclimate myself to the Georgia Southern community and was working to join clubs and get involved so I could have friends and connections on campus.
Two weeks ago, I was excited because I felt like I was finally getting my life in order. Joining clubs was starting to pay off and I was feeling more at home as I recognized more and more faces around campus. I was excited to plan for my future at Georgia Southern and to accumulate as many of the free Georgia Southern t-shirts around campus as I could.
Flash forward to today and I am ashamed to wear a Georgia Southern t-shirt and would not want to wear one for fear of being associated with the school who did not take a strong stand against book burning. I was not aware that this author was even coming to campus, much less the reactions and aggression that she was met with after her talk. As a disclaimer, I was therefore obviously not at the event and do not have a first-hand account. All I have to offer is my opinion as a student at Georgia Southern and how this has emotionally affected me personally. For background, I am a mixed female and am a part of several minoritized or disadvantaged communities, so to see such intolerance and hatred from my peers regarding a topic such as white privilege makes me feel unsafe and like I cannot voice my own opinion.
I received an email from the president of the school, in a letter that addressed the book burning. As I read it, I felt as though it was simply a gesture with no empathy, understanding, or meaning to it. That set off warning bells in my mind, but I still did not recognize the full gravity of this problem. I soon received messages from relatives asking what was going on. I felt ashamed of the school and that I was attending it. I was worried about being associated with this kind of reputation and how it would affect me getting a job or being accepted into graduate school. Would I sit down for an interview and be asked about the book burnings and if I was a part of it? Would I even be asked in for an interview, or would students from schools not associated from book burnings be called before me, regardless of if my skill set matched more closely? I am attending college to try to secure and prepare for my future, but by the school’s inaction in response to the book burning, my future security has been compromised, as has all students associated with Georgia Southern. However, this was me viewing this problem exclusively on a personal level.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was not only a personal problem. The book burning gained the attention of the national news because it is a symbol of a deeper national problem. The type of hatred demonstrated by Georgia Southern students in an attempt to silence a minority, is sadly not something that is new. It is something that has permeated our country and is eroding it from the core. However, for it to be so close to me has shocked me and brought to light how much of a problem this is. It is easy to distance oneself from the problems around us when they are not directly affecting us, or when we cannot immediately see them.
I am sickened and saddened by the fact that Georgia Southern only protects and advocates for diversity in words and not in actions. I want to go to a school where I feel safe and welcomed regardless of my race. Most importantly, I do not want Georgia Southern to continue brushing this off. Book burning is not something that should be lightly dismissed. Book burning is an act of establishing dominance and superiority rather than inclusion and equality. It is used to spread fear instead of building a community of a diverse group. Moving forward, I want Georgia Southern to take bold steps to begin representing and making safe all of their students and not just the ones that burn books.