Racism at Georgia State is Alive

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

Georgia State has an issue, and no, it’s not a lack of parking. Georgia State has a racism problem, and it’s time that the university addresses it. 

Recently, a Georgia State staple, Sensational Subs, was vandalized. Not by graffiti, but by sickening anti-Semitic references that seemed to leave the university conversation as quickly as it came.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Generally, that has been the way of the student body for years; when an injustice happens, it’s rightfully posted and spread. The students rant and rave about how such a sickening thing could happen at Georgia State. Then the students move on as if nothing happened. For example, the pro-life activists that utilize the university’s public speaking areas remain despite continuous outrage.

Every few months, a man protests with a big sign reminding all the girls and gays that they are going to hell. The students band together every time and tell him to take his bigotry elsewhere. He leaves and it’s back to the status quo. Those who’ve been at Georgia State for a while already know the routine. They already get the process and the university body is content with that.

But it’s not just the small events that get swiped under the rug; back in 2019 myself, Former Editor in Chief Daniel Varitek, Former Managing Editor Will Soloman and Former News Editor Ada Wood took on racism in the city with our Editorial asking Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to address the statue of Henry Grady on Marietta Street next to the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. That editorial garnered national attention overnight.

Not once did the university release any statement. Back in 2018, when a star soccer player was caught using slurs on social media, the university quietly suspended her from the university while calls for her expulsion grew. In 2021, an assistant professor at Perimeter College was called out for white supremacist blogs and social media posts; again, the university skated by doing the bare minimum. 

But as you trove through Georgia State’s social media posts, it’s been very… lackluster on every issue. Take this most recent event at Sen-Subs; the first response from Georgia State was this; 

“The university is aware of an off-campus incident where an anti-Semitic message was posted on a business chalkboard.

This behavior does not reflect our institutional values and we are committed to the highest standards of diversity, equity, and inclusion for all members of our community.

We are looking into the matter and have offered our support to affected students.

We encourage all members of our community to report all potential violations of our Code of Conduct to the Office of the Dean of Students using the online incident reporting form.” 

Georgia State posted its response on October 2, 2022, on the news.gsu.edu site. Nearly a full week after the event took place. By then, The Signal at Georgia State, the Student Government Association, Panther Report News and even the Epsilon Nu Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, whose letters were with the anti-Semitic statements, had all released statements with much tone-setting language. 

Each organization called out the bigotry on its face. PKA stated, “The rise in anti-Semitism is disturbing, dangerous and should not be tolerated whatsoever,” just days after the news broke. But what did Georgia State post on Instagram during this time? Two posts regarding incoming and future students, a post celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month and a post about our win over Army. Over on Twitter, more of the same. Not one outward-facing public statement address any sort of negative emotion.

But of course, the university is “committed to the highest standards of diversity, equity and inclusion for all members of our community.” To add insult to injury, at the time of the writing of this article, it wasn’t even on the main page of the Georgia State News Website. You had to look for the university’s response, and even then, it was hardly a response.

And frankly, that’s because the student body still isn’t holding Georgia State accountable. And it’s not as if the university isn’t uniquely aware of the racial situation rampant on its campuses. In 2020, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, the university started the Task Force For Racial Equality, a task housed in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion department at Georgia State. I had the pleasure of speaking and sitting with this Task Force, especially to advocate for the university to have its first Black President, a hard-fought decision I am glad the University System went with. 

The Task Force issued an action plan to tackle the institutional diversity problem at Georgia State. There hasn’t been a progress report since early 2021, nearly two years ago. The Steering Committee, which is supposed to focus on diversifying the facility, hasn’t updated its website since August 5, 2021. The website was created in June of that same year. 

And yet the student body isn’t in an uproar. As the university continues to chug along the student body chugs with it. We have to do better; we have to show the University Senate and Dr. Blake that we will no longer sit idly by. Or yet another example of bigotry will be swept under the rug and forgotten.