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Students discuss Ferguson and related issues at town hall meeting

The student community at the University should stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Mo., and not remain silent in complicit violence, six student leaders announced to a packed auditorium in Frist Campus Center on Monday night.The presentation's call to action challenged campus community members to stand in the nation's service and fight for justice, ending with the mantra "No justice, no peace."

The meeting took place a week after hundreds of University students protested the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting an unarmed African-American teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson. Over 200 students and local residents gathered in Palmer Square a day later to protest the Brown verdict.

Wilson resigned shortly after the verdict was reached, The New York Times reported.

The meeting was organized as a safe, open environment to discuss Ferguson and related issues on campus, organizers said in an opening presentation. The organizers also started the "I, Too, Am Princeton" campaign this spring, a Tumblr page for University students of color to voice their opinions and experiences surrounding race on campus.

“We have this culture of apathy at Princeton, and we think it’s really important to overcome that,” an organizer said. Presenters added that it is important for students to stay connected to local news outlets in Ferguson, as they have been covering the protests for over 100 days.

Presenters suggested organizing a food drive, a letter-writing campaign and a book drive for the people of Ferguson, as well as perhaps sending University students to provide tutoring on-site because schools were shut down due to mounting protests.

Organizers criticized the University’s panel discussion on Tuesday evening with University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, entitled “What Kind of Diversity: Is Princeton Too Narrowly Focused on Race and Ethnicity Rather Than Economic Diversity?" claiming that the title framed the discussion without considering the racial history behind income inequality.

Six student representatives spoke with Vice President of Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey about their concerns regarding the panel and said Cherrey was very receptive to their comments. Although the representatives said they are very happy the panel discussion is enabling this kind of conversation, they claim the framing remains problematic.

The group also noted that the University’s 2013 diversity report did not include statistics on undergraduates, an omission they hope to address with the administration.

“For us, this implies that racial diversity is not an issue on the undergraduate level,” an organizer said. The student noted that African-American students are underrepresented at the University given that they make up over 13 percent of the U.S. population and only approximately 8 percent of the undergraduate population.

“Just the number of people of all different colors and backgrounds talking was unbelievable,” Kevin Zhang ’15 said of the meeting after attending it. “I think it was really helpful.”

Over 150 students attended the town hall gathering.

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