“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” - Maya Angelou.
Texas A&M has had a rough year from a public relations point of view. As a student of this school, it is my responsibility to tell the truth about this institution. Unfortunately, based on what I have seen, my conclusion is heartbreaking and disappointing. In all honesty, there is no way I can recommend this university to a loved one.
One of A&M's most prominent criticisms is how the school handles anything related to race. There is nothing defensible about an institution fostering an environment so toxic that the hashtag #RacismAtTAMUFeelsLike trended nationally on Twitter. A&M President Michael K. Young came out with a strongly worded email and 10 measures to address and basically “defeat” racism on campus. If there is not any transparency on how such measures will take effect, this is nothing but lip service. President Young can admit he has been affected by the "heart-wrenching stories posted by Aggies who have experienced racism first-hand on our campus." However, giving a platform to known white nationalist and alt-right founder Richard Spencer only shows one of the reasons we got here in the first place.
Furthermore, while we're on the topic of race, let's talk about one of the most significant issues that shadowed A&M this year: the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross. To be clear, this year was not the first time this debate came to light. There were calls back in 1998 to remove the statue or at least show some balance by having a sculpture of Matthew Gaines erected as well. Obviously, there has been resistance, especially in 2018 when A&M System Chancellor John Sharp stated Ross "had NO ties to white supremacy" despite the overwhelming evidence stating otherwise. The blatant disregard and denial of facts alone should make Sharp ineligible to be a chancellor of a university promoting diversity. How can we grow as an institution if we are still debating the most simple facts? An institution built on a rotten foundation such as white supremacy can only last for so long.
Our rivals all the way in Austin came to the conclusion that symbols of hate shouldn’t be proudly displayed on campus. I know we try to do everything differently than UT Austin, but can this be one thing we actually both agree on? Do we as an institution not care at all for our Black students' emotional pain realizing this school cares more for protecting this white supremacist statue than their well-being? These students are doing the heavy lifting of trying to bring the school into the 21st century, but the hostility they are met with is heartbreaking. The school claims we all bleed maroon and white, but forgets to mention the real emphasis is on the “white” part of that statement.
The administration of this university invents new ways to disappoint its students. It already provided us with a masterclass on mishandling sexual assault cases. It was not surprising to see the thousands of tweets with the hashtag #HateIsTheHiddenCoreValue this past summer. A&M later banned the tradition of chalking around the same time the student body began to voice their opinions about mistreatment on campus. I'm sure the timing was just a bizarre coincidence because an establishment promoting inclusion would never suppress its students and faculty's speech, right?
I came to this university hoping to start the change I wanted to see and shift the negative narrative about A&M. However, after only a year of being here, it is evident the university has no desire to change. The culture here is so toxic that it counter-protests the Black Lives Matter movement with an idiotic phrase like Maroon Lives Matter. The culture is so ignorant and void of self-awareness that the counter-protestors sang Aggie War Hymn to drown out the "Black lives matter" cries. There is no way I can recommend this university to anyone I love. Being in the “Aggie network” is simply not worth it if you have to convince yourself that being disrespected is just part of the journey.
Ozioma Mgbahurike is an electrical engineering sophomore and opinion writer for The Battalion.