At Florida Atlantic University (FAU) there is an ongoing issue concerning the treatment of Black student organizations. From last minute cancellations to problems with funding with the Council of Student Organizations (COSO), Black orgs have to go the extra mile to ensure that they can hold programming for their members.
The latest example of this was the cancellation of the Black Student Union’s Halloween party which was set to take place at Hughes Park on the 31st. The event was an off-campus celebration open to all students and included a detailed COVID-19 plan to comply with CDC recommended guidelines.
BSU began promoting this event on October 1st but it wasn’t until October 29th that the club received an email asking that we cancel the event due to COVID-19 concerns. They informed us that the rule states that there can not be any events with over 10 people until further notice in light of COVID-19.
This is 100% understandable and BSU had no issue with that rule. The problem BSU had was with the fact that other organizations have had events, both on and off campus, this semester with over 10 people in attendance. All of these were organizations with a majority of white members.
The most recent occurrence of this was on October 30th when The Hillel Center hosted a Spooky Shabbat on campus which had over 10 people in attendance.
When asked how the Spooky Shabbat was able to take place, Kaley Homan, an event coordinator for COSO, said that Hillel’s event had neither been approved or denied by COSO. However, the event still took place so it will be interesting to see if they will face suspension or loss of funding for having an event that was unapproved and that had more than 10 people in attendance:
Now, the initial reason that FAU gave BSU for the cancellation of their event was the 10 person reason. However, after BSU brought to their attention the aforementioned event, they then said that the reason was because FAU is no longer allowing off campus events. However, on October 30th the Reformed University Fellowship organization (RUF) held an off campus dinner party for their members and, on October 18th, hosted an off campus movie night.
So that reasoning doesn’t add up either.
The last reason that COSO came up with was that BSU didn’t notify them about the event in enough time so therefore they reserve the right to deny it.
Ok.. that was fair. It only took them three tries to finally come up with a reasonable excuse.
In response, the Black Student Union cancelled the Halloween party and deleted the flyer from all social media platforms. They also informed attendees, who had RSVP’d, that the event would no longer take place.
However, this didn’t stop FAU students from moving forward with the plan to hang out at the park on Halloween. What was originally a BSU party had now changed into a hang out for any and all students with no tie to the club. So just like students have the right to throw a dinner party off campus, FAU students have the right to throw a get together off campus and the long reach of COSO can’t do anything since there is no club affiliation…right? Wrong.
On the evening of the 29th, two BSU executive board members received phone calls from a COSO official informing them that if anyone congregates at Hughes Park on the 31st, regardless of them being there on behalf of BSU, BSU would face suspension and risk losing their funding.
This sparked outrage on Twitter starting with the president of BSU, Kennedy McKinney, who outlined the matter via Twitter voice. Shortly after, many students and alumni exercised their freedom of speech and made their own statements about how they feel towards FAU and shared anecdotes of their experiences with the university.
So here’s the problem. Why is it fair for a black organization’s event to get cancelled when other events continue to take place that are also breaking said “rules” that COSO has put in place. If our health and safety is really at the forefront of their minds, there should be no events whatsoever.
Time and time again black organization’s events are cancelled at the last minute, oftentimes with little to no reasoning. In turn, this makes Black orgs look unprofessional, unorganized, and results in orgs losing time and money. People need to understand that these are not just clubs where we hang out with friends. These clubs have values and goals and a team of people putting their all into making sure their club puts their best foot forward for their members and the community. Last minute cancellations are extremely disrespectful of the dedication and energy executive boards and members put in.
The only thing black organizations want is equality amongst all organizations. We don’t want our event cancelled just to look up and see a similar event taking place by a white club. We also want one clear answer as to why an event is being cancelled, not three different excuses when we challenge your previous one.
Lastly, sources have told us that FAU officials don’t appreciate us making this into a “race thing” but our response is, when the only difference between what events happen and don’t happen is that one is white and one is black what other assumption is there to make?
This anger over this situation was not about a halloween party, it’s the principle of the matter and the blatant duality of the treatment of white orgs versus black orgs.
We hope that this article sheds light on the situation and also articulates our feelings to FAU so that they can make the necessary changes to prevent this from happening again.