With hand-made signs in the back of Memorial Hall supporting the fight for diversity, the stage was set for a forum Wednesday night to discuss the effigy of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama found hanging from a noose in a tree on campus earlier in the day.
Change needed to happen on campus, said La Toya B. Smith, a counseling psychology graduate student. We are going to be active in the situation. We are no longer going to sit idly by.
UK President Lee Todd began the forum by expressing his disappointment with the effigy. Todd called the act an embarrassment to the university and the Lexington community. However, he said despite thisdisgusting episode, the school will continue striving to create an environment for diversity.
We cannot let episodes like this tear down the progress we have made, Todd said.
Mayor Jim Newberry also was present to show his distaste for the symbol. Newberry said he was sickened by the cowardly act, which is unacceptable in any community.
Student representatives from UK attended the event as well. Travis Darden, president of the Black Student Union, said it was the BSUs responsibility to go out and make sure justice and equality are served.
It is unrealistic to believe ignorance, racism and bigotry do not exist on this campus, Darden said.
Student Government President Tyler Montell agreed that racism was present on this campus, but it is also present in todays society. Montell asked students to come together, because today, Montell said, everyone was a victim.
Today we are forced to take a step back, Montell said. Today our community has been degraded by intolerance.
Joe Gallenstein, president of the College Democrats, and Jacob Sims, president of the College Republicans, each spoke, agreeing in their stances against Wednesdays racial act.
This despicable act not only leaves a scar on our university, the students and faculty within it, but it also leaves a scar on the Commonwealth of Kentucky as a whole, Sims said.
Sims said whoever created the effigy was cowardly, and the College Republicans do not want that individuals support at the polls on Election Day.
As the forum came to an end, some students were confused, thinking it was going to be an open forum where students were free to speak.
I misunderstood the info, said Matthew McClendon, a landscape architecture freshman. I thought we were going to be able to express our opinion.
Todd said he faxed a letter of apology to Obama and his family. Police are continuing to investigate the occurrence.