President Kent Devereaux issued a lengthy email on October 26 in response to a national rise in antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate crimes. As most students know, President Devereaux’s most frequent mode of contact with students is through email, and the occasional decision to eat in the dining hall with other administrators to directly connect with the students he claims to care for and support.
My main gripe with these emails is the blatant silence from President Devereaux on political issues that directly impact other minority students at Goucher, particularly the non-Jewish Black and Brown community.
In an email sent out to the Goucher community on September 26 regarding an accidental scheduling conflict that landed on Yom Kippur, President Devereaux profusely apologizes for the mistake stating: “As we strive to be a more inclusive and welcoming community, on occasion we will make mistakes. When that happens, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize our errors, offer an apology, and learn from our errors so we don’t make the same mistake again.”
Yet he fails to ever mention other religious holidays that many students of color celebrate, such as Ramadan and Diwali. These holidays are not scheduled around to accommodate those who practice– where is our apology?
He then states in an additional email regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice goals from September 28: “We have filed legal actions seeking to correct past injustices, such as removing the racist and antisemitic covenants present in the original deeds for the land upon which the College sits today. We launched a multi-year initiative — the Hallowed Ground Project — to examine the written and archeological evidence of the practice of slavery that occurred on this land, long before the College acquired it in the early 20th century.”
Both of these emails strive to acknowledge injustices in the Jewish community, and loosely address additional issues applying to other minority groups. We then get a quick look at the Hallowed Ground Project, but no other statement in these emails on specific social justice problems address other national or global atrocities that impact Black and Brown people. It is rare that these instances even get an email.
Lastly, President Devereaux’s email from October 26– “Standing against hate and antisemitism.”
“Goucher is not perfect. No institution, or human, ever is, but we are proud of that history and our longstanding commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive campus for all,” he said, “We have been proactive in working collaboratively with Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative to assess and improve the campus climate for our Jewish community members. Moving forward, we will continue to work on training, policies, and community dialogue to actively combat antisemitism in all its forms across all domains of our campus community.”
Let me be clear, his ability to take a forthcoming stance against antisemitism is crucial and admirable. But this fails to be as inclusive as he may have intended. As a current Black Muslim student at Goucher, I personally do not feel that issues that my community faces are being considered at all in some of these emails. In fact, it feels as if we are ignoring whole communities.
Students who observe Ramadan have complained about the dining hall closing at 8pm when they are expected to have broken their fast by or around sundown after the dining hall closes. They have no option for a dining hall meal unless they come earlier in the day to get food to-go. The human rights violations against Palestinians have been completely ignored, while when Ukraine was invaded, their flag was flying on campus shortly after.
I am not saying that one oppressed group should be valued over the other, or that the issues President Deveraux and the college have touched on are unimportant. My criticism here is that you cannot pick and choose when and who you care about, especially as a president of an institution filled with students who carry a global array of identities. We exist and study here, whether you would like to acknowledge it or not.
For years now, it is no surprise that Goucher students of color feel as if their presence is only seen through the diversity photoshoots taken for the Goucher website. We are human advertisements to help promote an inclusive space that does not exist. But how can we tackle this problem when the people who run this institution ignore our existence until it benefits their agenda? It is worth confronting this issue, as well as being honest about how we as Goucher students have the capacity to spark change. We must acknowledge the power we hold through our numbers and voices when it comes to issues that personally affect us at this institution. I urge us to have these essential conversations with each other about what we truly deserve at a college we sacrifice so much to be part of. Hold those directly in power and in control of our Goucher livelihoods accountable. We deserve to know we matter.
Written By Maryam Abdiruhman ’24