On Feb. 9, students and faculty gathered in the Marano Campus Center food court to listen to speeches about race relations in the United States and President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigration from several countries.
The rally, hosted by Oswego State’s national fraternity chapter of Lambda Sigma Upsilon was titled “We Are America.” Its goal was to provide students, faculty and administration an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and unity on campuses it was held at, and at active LSU chapters nationwide. Among the speakers was Oswego State President Deborah Stanley, the Oswego State vice president for student affairs and enrollment Gerald Woolfolk, Chair of the Department of Global and International Studies Lisa Glidden, and Dean of Students Jerri Howland.
First to speak was the host for the event, Daniela Rosario. As she introduced the program, she spoke a little about her own experiences on campus after the election.
“I felt there was a rift and divide on campus,” Rosario said.
Next to speak was Stanley. As she spoke, she referenced her own history interacting with immigrants to the U.S, such as her own grandmother. She also referenced Oswego State’s history with the international community, such as the first foreign exchange program the college offered, which was in the 1800s. She went on to speak about the executive order and her beliefs about it as it pertained to higher education and the American identity.
“We don’t believe it’s rational in reference to the facts surrounding the executive order,” Stanley said.
Stanley emphasized her respect for the LSU fraternity and those attending the rally for protesting peacefully and stressed that using force often lessens the impact of a message and distracts from the main points trying to be made.
Following Stanley’s speech, Woolfolk spoke about the history of the Oswego area as a final stop along the Underground Railroad for slaves escaping the South.
“We are a community where Harriet Tubman walked,” Woolfolk said.
Howland, thanked those present for gathering and protesting in a peaceful manner and using their voices. Howland spoke about her experiences as a student and encouraged current students to never let those who might attempt to detract them succeed in their goals.
The student involvement advisor, Nicole Morse, mentioned how her own family came to the country as immigrants and refugees through Ellis Island and encouraged those who may feel that their individual voices may be too small to cause change on the national level.
“There is no such thing as a tiny change. It’s all just change’” Morse said.
The final speaker was the president of the local Lambda Sigma Upsilon chapter, Jacques Sylvain. An immigrant from Haiti, Sylvain came to the United States in 2008. His speech expanded the discussion from one about immigration and ethnic backgrounds to one about gender identity and the role of women in leadership. Sylvain mentioned that he had met people who expressly voted for Trump in 2016 because they did not believe former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could handle the office of the presidency because she was a woman. Sylvain argued that Oswego State is run by a woman and that arguments about individuals’ abilities based on gender identity have no place in modern political discourse.
The rally closed with an open floor for anyone present to speak their minds on the topic of the executive order or racial tensions in the U.S. Following that open floor, those who wished, marched and chanted from a series of statements provided at the beginning of the rally, one of which was “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!”