Quoting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Seton Hall President Dr. Joseph Nyre spoke out for the first time on Saturday, speaking about the unrest currently sweeping the nation in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
Dozens of American cities have been swarmed with protests over the last week with some peaceful demonstrations turning to riots at nightfall, sparking violent clashes between protesters and police. The country is currently bracing for a possible seventh night of violence on Monday.
“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots,” read the quote from King attached in the statement. “It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.”
The statement comes seven days after the death of Floyd and less than a day after an editorial published by The Setonian leveled criticism at the University for its original statement, which was published on the School’s website and social channels on Saturday.
“It is the job of these two organizations [the University and the Student Government Association], in particular, to make students feel not just welcome at this University, but heard,” the editorial read. “To make them feel like valued members of our shared community, something Mayor Baraka and Larry Hamm did at Saturday’s protest in Newark, a protest that should serve as a model for catharsis, healing and social activism in the wake of Floyd’s death. Yet, we have seen no such leadership on this front at Seton Hall.”
The updated statement also came hours after a meeting between University administrators, including Nyre, and student leaders from the SGA Executive Cabinet, the Black Student Union and the former president of the Black Men of Standard, Kadean Dennis.
“As we begin another week marked by shocking unrest in scores of American cities and towns, we as a University and as a nation are fighting two deadly afflictions — the diseases of COVID-19 and endemic racism,” read the statement, which was pushed out from Nyre’s office via a campus-wide email.
The updated statement from Nyre went on to condemn racism and violence, promising more action from the University on diversity and inclusion. Nyre also announced that the SGA would begin work with the University’s Campus Ministry Department and the Division of Student Services “to help advance our voice across higher education, New Jersey and at Seton Hall.”
“The black community is hurting immensely as the issues surrounding George Floyd’s death are issues that have persisted for centuries,” said Thanelie Bien-Aime, President of the Black Student Union. “More than anything, we want justice and to see real changes implemented to attack racist systems. We want to know that we are supported by the institutions meant to protect and represent us.”
“The university’s first statement was a start but did not present any action plans to directly implement reform,” Bein-Aime continued. “Faith is important but I emphasized our need for faith and works to go hand in hand.”
According to Bien-Aime, she and other leaders discussed how Seton Hall and SGA can “best support those impacted by the events surrounding George Floyd’s death.”
“We also talked about ways to educate the SHU community and provide action steps. The new statement commits to taking steps to reform, but we as students need to hold our leadership accountable in following through,” she said. “I look forward to the working with them on programs and initiatives that promote anti-racism.”
Last night, in their own statement, the SGA Executive Committee chaired by President Julia Nichols promised action from the organization, including re-sharing information for students educating them on how to aid in the effort against racism and violence, as well as coordinating a statement between other student governments from around the state.
“The university stands with the black community and will be demonstrating that throughout this week,” Nichols said in a post to her Instagram story. “Please continue to put pressure on the university and SGA for action so together we may see change. We will be doing more than have faith.”