The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.
I am writing to, and in solidarity with, the students who felt fear, loneliness, and grief in response to the recent “demonstration” on campus, where slurs were directed at marginalized communities, as highlighted in the recent opinion column by Kristal Grant ’24. I am also writing in solidarity with the students working to make campus a more equitable place that centers around the needs of the most marginalized.
The language used in that demonstration, historically imbued with a legacy of hate and violence, stands as a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done. This outside group hoped that spewing abhorrent messages from sidewalks just off campus would draw attention and spark a reaction from the University community. Many in our community helped minimize the group’s impact by simply ignoring their hate.
However, it is not so simple for many others in our community. As a Black, mixed-race, queer man of historically low-income and first-generation experience, I believe that being on the receiving end of that rhetoric, and living through the material consequences that accompany it, can only be truly understood by those of us who have survived these moments. For Black and brown folks, and women and femme folks, and queer and trans (QT) folks, it summons, from the depths of despair, the ways that systems, nations, and indeed universities have historically rejected and denied our humanity.
And now we are called to envision a Princeton University that celebrates the richness and fullness of our humanity. As one step toward this goal, I am committed to working with University leaders and our students to establish a trauma-informed response team.
Furthermore, in my commitment to partner with senior leaders across campus to address the needs of the most marginalized students on campus, I am working closely with my counterpart Tennille Haynes, Assistant Dean and Director of the Carl A. Fields Center, on University initiatives to support you and to advocate for your needs. The Committee on Black and LGBTQIA+ Student Experiences, chaired by Dean Haynes, has been working to address the disparities experienced by our Black and QT communities. This group — charged by Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun over a year ago — is critically analyzing policies, procedures, and practices that disparately impact queer and trans people of color, and to redress them from a systems-based approach to reduce the reproduction of inequalities.
I believe that working groups like this — inspired by regular dialogue with students — are the recipe toward implementing equitable policies and practices where students can show up in every corner of campus as their authentic selves.
The newly formed Gender + Sexuality Resource Center will be officially launched next Monday, Sept. 27, at 5 p.m. This day and event will truly be a launching pad because there is much work to be done. We will be doing this work in close community with our stakeholders — women, femme, queer, and trans students at the intersections of identity. At the event, there will be an opportunity for you to leave your recommendations and suggestions with our team.
I will close by re-stating that I write in solidarity with our students who were hurt by the recent “demonstration” on campus and those students who have been working to make campus a more equitable place.
Kristopher Oliveira (he/him) is the Director of the Gender + Sexuality Resource Center and an Assistant Dean in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion-Campus Life.