Black student alliance formed on Hill

Shawntaye Hopkins

Patricia Weaver was sitting with some friends during MASTER Plan when she thought of the idea for Western’s newest organization.

Next semester, Western students will have the opportunity to join the Black Student Alliance, an organization focused on academic enhancement and unification of African-American students.

Now, Weaver, a Louisville junior, and a small group of students are recording their names as the founders. They’re proving it is possible to begin an organization with a few dedicated students, a good idea and some faculty support.

Weaver arrived on campus early this semester as a resident assistant. She discussed with friends the possibility of creating a union among African-American students – something many other universities already have. Weaver now serves as the BSA president.

“Other campuses have a strong community within the black students because they have an alliance,” said Georgetown junior Natasha DeJarnett, vice president. “Maybe we can make a difference.”

An organization of the same name and similar ideas existed on the Hill from 1983 to 1994, according to records from the student organizations office.

But Weaver said this year’s group went through the process of becoming a new organization, not reinstating an old one.

The students who call themselves the founders stressed that the organization is not strictly for black students. Although their focus is on African-American students, they are encouraging anyone who shares their common goals to join the group.

“(BSA hopes to) bring more unity on campus and serve as an outlet or a resource to students,” said Paducah junior Tamika Dobbin, the group’s historian.

Public Relations representative Trisha Clement, a senior from Bronx, N.Y., said next semester BSA will set tables in Downing University Center and post fliers to tell students how they can get involved. BSA will have weekly meetings and low semester dues. Location and times have not yet been decided.

Until next semester, the group will sponsor programs to get students interested.

A panel discussion sponsored by BSA and Phi Beta Sigma was held last night on “Have African-American Activists Gone Too Far?”

The event was inspired by letters-to-the-editor in the Herald discussing activism after the September Ku Klux Klan rally.

After reading the first of these letters, the panel of students and professors responded. A major issue was the importance of educating those who may be ignorant to certain issues such as racism.

At the end of the program, students and faculty discussed possible solutions.

“I think it was a success for African-Americans but not for the campus as a whole because we only had a small number of white people who attended the forum, and this was a great opportunity for us to grow as a campus,” said Bardstown junior Jeff Stone, one of the panel members.

According to BSA officers, more than 80 people attended the forum.

Programs that will help recruit and retain minority students are being planned.

BSA will team up with organizations like the Black Achievers program to visit high schools and will create a mentor program for freshmen.

The first meeting of founders consisted of seven students. The founders grew to 13 students by their second meeting two days later.

Similarly, faculty support and interest grew. BSA does not have one single advisor but a committee.

“We had so many faculty members that were supportive, we had to have an advisory committee,” Clement said.

Martha Sales, a counselor for educational talent search and one of the faculty advisors, said she thought the organization was a great idea.

Sales said this group was determined, committed and willing to endure.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]