In an email shared with the Wake Forest community on Monday, March 18, President Nathan Hatch announced the designation of a lounge in Kitchin for use by the Black Student Alliance (BSA).
BSA, which formerly had a smaller lounge in Benson, works both independently and with student organizations across campus to create a sense of inclusion and camaraderie among African-American students at Wake Forest, which they accomplish through meetings and social events.
“As Wake Forest continues to expand and further develop the campus, they need to keep in mind minority students that are not offered their own spaces,” said junior Kai Jordan, president of the BSA. “Building safe spaces that appeal to minority students is vital for their wellbeing on this campus.”
Hatch’s decision to designate this lounge for use by BSA came after meetings with minority students and members of BSA who expressed a desire to create more spaces for minority students on campus. Prior to these meetings, a list of demands disseminated in late February by the Anti-Racism Coalition requested “a space explicitly for black students.”
“With taking the Barn offline as a social space, it just seemed like a logical request,” Hatch said. “It was the right thing to do.”
On Jan. 20, 2018, Winston-Salem State University student Najee Ali Baker was shot and killed during a social event hosted at the Barn. Following this tragedy, event-hosting protocol across campus fell under scrutiny, and policies regarding hosting and planning events underwent a lengthy review.
After this review, the decision was made during the fall semester of 2018 to suspend future events hosted by student organizations in the Barn due to concerns about the building’s size and its isolation from the rest of campus. This decision primarily affected minority organizations, which frequently used the Barn as a venue for hosting social events.
“Before the meeting with President Hatch, we expressed our concerns and need for a space with other administrators at the university,” Jordan said.
Initially, the Sutton Center was named as a potential alternative venue for hosting late-night social events, but issues arose due to the volume of entrance and egress locations throughout the building.
The designation of the lounge in Kitchin for use by BSA comes during a period of heightened frustration and awareness regarding the historic marginalization of minority groups on campus. In early February, images of students posing in blackface in numerous editions of the Howler resurfaced, and in late February, images of Dean of Admissions Martha Blevins Allman and Associate Dean of Admissions Kevin Pittard standing before a Confederate flag in 1980s editions of the Howler were circulated among the Wake Forest community.
“There’s so much more that needs to be done,” said Dean of Students and Associate Vice President of Campus Life Adam Goldstein. “Wake [Forest] is increasingly diverse, and we have to engage in the long conversation around what it means to be inclusive, and every member of our community should be involved in that conversation.”
Moving forward, BSA intends to use its new lounge for a variety of functions, including meetings, casual events and social events.
“It’s vital [that] the university provides spaces and events for minority students to bring forward their concerns and issues [that] endure on campus and that the university actively listens and creates resolutions for these problems,” Jordan said.