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Student’s open letter to Baruch administration demands change and equality for Black students

Wouter Engler | Flickr

Following the death of George Floyd, Teona Pagan, a student at Baruch College, is demanding change within CUNY around issues of race with an open letter she sent to the administration at Baruch.

In addition to sending the letter, Pagan also requested a reply within 24 hours of receipt. Pagan said that CUNY hasn’t done enough for the Black community and listed out requests in which she hopes to be the start of change to help students and faculty of color.

In the list of demands she sent to the administration at Baruch, she asks them to release a statement expressing their solidarity with the Black community, cease any partnership with the New York City Police Department immediately, bring in mental health and counseling resources exclusively for Black students coping with the present circumstances, the creation of a Black Studies Major Program and more Black educators across disciplines. The letter in its entirety can be accessed here.

“Baruch and CUNY’s lack of response regarding the current events in America leads me to assume that you do not stand in solidarity and support the Black students,” her letter read. “The Black student population deserves to be recognized, acknowledged and heard as valuable members of this society.”

Attached to her letter was a petition for support in her efforts to fight for change within CUNY. The letter has been well received by many within Baruch and CUNY, which has received over 330 signatures to date.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” she said. Students and faculty alike have come out to show support for her letter and her efforts to implement change.

Pagan also attended the Office of Student Life Town Hall on the Black Lives Matter movement and present racial tensions on June 4. As one of the speakers at the event, she found more support among students and faculty for her letter.

“I feel like it gave me the platform I needed to explain myself,” she added. Knowing so many people came out to support not only her but her ideas for change fueled her passion.

She feels “empowered” by the backing that many have given her and will continue to push forward. In a letter to The Ticker, Professor Marcus Johnson commended Pagan’s initiative.

“If you are a member of the Baruch Community and you have not read Pagan’s letter, I urge you to do so,” Johnson wrote. “Each one of her points are valid and provide actionable steps that Baruch can take in its commitment to diversity.”

She elaborated to The Ticker on her requests for Baruch Administration. In her demand for CUNY to cut ties with the NYPD, she cited the costs of this partnership.

“Baruch spends about $4 million on security at Baruch and if we look at the wider CUNY numbers, CUNY spends about $58 million on security.” Her suggestion is to employ private security and move additional funds over to help Black students.

The additional funding, she added, could be put toward creating Black studies majors and providing more counseling services to Black students. It is worth noting that Baruch’s Counseling Services are specifically trained in multicultural and racial issues, and are available to all students.

“It is injudicious for us to profess inclusion and diversity if they are not supported by action. As an institution, it is imperative that we exert pressure wherever we can to fight for change and justice,” Pagan closed.

In response to both students and the recent protests Baruch College issued this statement:

Baruch College condemns the racism, discrimination, and hatred that has been long embedded in our communities, and throughout the entire nation. Following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, Baruch College responded in multiple ways to emphatically denounce systemic racism, and reiterate the College’s long-standing mission to justice, access and opportunity. On June 1, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs James McCarthy, PhD, sent a campus-wide message— Time to Address Ingrained Racism and Disparities. The College also promptly engaged with the campus community in multiple ways, including a virtual Town Hall meeting on June 4, hosted by Baruch’s Student Life, to create a space for faculty, staff, and students to come together, and to provide resources and tools to navigate these difficult times. Also on June 4, President-designate S. David Wu, PhD, addressed the Baruch community is his message: “A Time for the Baruch Community to Come Together”.

Since then, Baruch has heard from many members of the campus community, and greatly appreciates that they shared their outrage, concerns, experiences, and ideas. The College continues to welcome these frank discussions, insights and involvements.

While these dialogues are critical to progress, the College recognizes that, in the end, what is most powerful is commitment to action. President-designate Wu vouched to this commitment in his message “A Time for the Baruch Community to Come Together”. “Right now, there is an urgent need for us to vent our collective fury with words and with peaceful protest. Over the long term, however, we need to follow through on our commitment to change with deeds.” Among Dr. Wu’s directives are to reinvigorate the mission-critical areas of teaching and research in the Department of Black and Latino Studies, and the Presidential Advisory Council on Diversity and Inclusion to refocus efforts on enhancing our diverse and respective campus community. Schools and departments have also publicly announced additional steps being undertaken within their respective areas.

Baruch College pledges to keep the community informed of the status of these actions, and the new initiatives that will emerge from ongoing campus conversations. To this end, the College established the “Community Connections” webpage so we—as a community—can remain both receptive and forward looking.

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