It’s been two weeks since Chi Omega’s controversial party photo of sorority sisters wearing fake mustaches and sombreros surfaced on Facebook with a sign saying, “Will mow lawn for weed + beer.” Although many students at Penn State University are still disturbed at the racial intolerance demonstrated by their peers, instead of loud rioting, they are showing silent solidarity.
Today at 12:25pm ET, the coalition members of Penn State University For All Student Equality (PSU-FASE), in addition to varied students and faculty, held a peaceful silent march to promote a socially-just and diversity-tolerant campus.
Manuel Figueroa, 20, one of the organizers of the march, says he was inspired by the silent walks of Chicano civil rights activist César Chávez.
“He is an inspiration to us, because he employed methods like the single file line to draw attention to a small group and to create awareness to his causes, and he achieved it,” says Figueroa after the 30 minute silent walk including students and teachers carrying banners around campus. “We think it’s successful…We’ve been able to show solidarity within the community.”
Aly Motah, 21, says she has been a part of the core group of student equality since it formed this past Sunday, and she concurs regarding the success of the march in generating the conversation about racism and all forms of oppression on campus.
“There were at least 60-70 people holding banners in a single line – some people had tape over their mouths,” says Motah.
She says she was impressed by the turnout of the group considering Hispanic students make up 5 percent of the student population at Penn State.
“I think that when you see protests when people are shouting, people are really intimidated by that,” says Motah. The silent pilgrimage has a lot of power behind it. I’m a student of color, so for people to react to an incidence of racism at Penn State is something that is very powerful and surprising. To have as many students and faculty that we did, I think was a great thing.”
Figueroa says their personal goal for the walk was to draw attention to the issues that were most pertinent – demands they are asking the University to implement, including increasing the Latino student population by 25 percent by 2015 – making it proportionate to the numbers of Latinos in Pennsylvania, residential dispersion of students of color throughout the residential halls, and the creation of a Latino/a Studies Department.
“We still have to see,” he says. “Our goals will be accomplished when we sit down with the administration, and we discuss it. If a student makes an ignorant comment, they might get an A and forget all about it, but maybe we can correct them next time and that’s a big reason why we’re here.”
Motah says, as a group, they will make sure these changes will be implemented.
“Next week is finals week, and then we go on a 3-week break, but we’re not going to let the break ruin our momentum,” she says.