Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty-one Years of Service to the Student


Letter: #UnsafeAtK is Still Our Reality

It wasn’t very long ago that students on this campus were uprising on this fair arcadian hill. This comes from generations of hornets practicing a term some of us like to call “Kritical Love”. Tensions may have resumed to their normalized passive aggressive state, but the issues at the root of these tensions still remain.

As I enter the final year of my K-Plan, I honestly don’t know how much love my heart can hold for this place, one of many violent institutions.

The love I hold lives within my relationships with students, alumni, faculty, and staff. But this is not a piece about my relationships and the love I have for folks, this is my attempt to check-in with the campus community on our progress with addressing institutional violence.

Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

There were 10 demands delivered to the Administration and Board of Trustees. Only two of those ten demands have been met. One demand has been disregarded through action of the college following last school year’s State of Emergency.

There are students, faculty, and staff that don’t agree with the methods and tactics of the Intercultural Movement. I know because I hear these critiques in my classes, as I walk around campus, on my social media timelines, and even in this student newspaper.

It’s exhausting to go into every space on campus preparing for commentary. As one member of a collective, I see how these social interactions have affected my ability to engage in this community. I am not the only student experiencing the waves after effects of doing this movement work.

I have no doubt in my mind that if it wasn’t for my fearless comrades of the Intercultural Movement, Kalamazoo College would be doing more institutional research on Intercultural Centers, versus having its third candidate for Director of Intercultural Life come to campus this week.

As I sit in the Interim Intercultural Space, I experience conflicting emotions. I have the joy and pride of a collective organizing win. Yet, I also am reminded that the small room that was Hicks 110 is reflective of the priority and urgency this institution has had throughout its history.

In many ways, that space remains Hicks 110.

To my fellow students of color on campus, I see you. I know this place can be hard. I also know that for some of us things have always been hard, and for that reason we know safety is relative. Audre Lorde talks about how being desensitized to violence is an example of how our dehumanization is institutionalized.

Our humanity is always worth the fight.

9 Comments on Letter: #UnsafeAtK is Still Our Reality

  1. Now is an opportunity to evolve Social Justice to not only a place of output for protest but, also a sanctuary for the sharing of thought.  The Arcus  Social Justice Leadership and Intercultural Center

  2. Very offensive to call K a “violent institution” when many black people come here to escape *actual* violence. Some people have come from the Middle East to escape ISIS. Making things up doesn’t help liberalism – it hurts it. I’m offended by your column. K College IS the Safe Space many need. Look at how many times you use “I” in the short piece;)

  3. GabachodeMichigan // November 12, 2015 at 12:14 AM // Reply

    “One of many violent institutions?” Yes, K is such a truly violent place – ROFLMBO. Having represented one of Charles Taylor’s child-soldiers in court, forgive me if I roll my eyes just a little bit at such overwrought, self-indulgent prose.

    It is wonderful that students at K have the time and energy to discuss “micro aggressions” ad nauseum in “safe spaces.” Enjoy your freedom while you can – outside the walls of your ivory tower, there’s a whole big world that is not particularly interested in whether you “feel safe” or not.

  4. Shreena Gandhi // November 12, 2015 at 8:57 PM // Reply

    Rian, I’m so proud of you – it’s incredibly brave and difficult to speak your/our truths regarding institutional racism – it’s so imbedded, that those that benefit from it refuse/can’t see it. I look forward to continuing the fight with you!

  5. “It’s exhausting to go into every space on campus preparing for commentary.”

    So let me get this straight, she goes into spaces of intellectual thought, complains and calls people names with no evidence, and then complains in student newspapers and around campus about how people are critical? Time for some self-examination….

    Rephrase: “I want to criticize and hurt people, and never take responsibility for the destruction I’ve caused.”

  6. Samuel Wettinger // November 14, 2015 at 5:56 AM // Reply


    I implore you, please do not look away from this comment. Please do not immediately write it off as “violent.” I simply hold different opinions, and I don’t believe that variance in thought should be withheld from the discourse.

    I truly hope that you never experience true racial violence. It is something I’ve seen a great deal of during my time abroad. However, I don’t believe you truly understand the word “violent,” or you wouldn’t be using it so callously and liberally.

    The fact of the matter is, Kalamazoo College is not a violent space. That does not that it isn’t flawed. Yes, racism is present on campus. No, it is not violent. As much as members of the #UnsafeAtK movement would disagree, you don’t have to fear for your safety walking to classes, or voicing a different opinion in a lecture. You’re afforded the freedom to be different, voice your opinion, share your story, and organize a movement such as this one. This wouldn’t be possible in a place that is truly violent.

    As for your grievances, I’m afraid I have to be blunt. Rian, you cannot have it all. You can’t fancy yourself the next Malcom X or other civil rights leader and complain about commentary. You and your followers cannot barge into a trustee meeting with a megaphone and proceed to laugh at the elderly gentleman covering his ears because his hearing aid makes him sensitive to the noise. What did you truly expect, given actions such as those? Nodding and smiling, praise and accolades?

    In many ways, this movement has not become about the Intercultural Center, it has become about you. I, as well as many others, see the way you traipse about campus, exuding a holier-than-thou attitude disguised as “self love.” You manipulate those who have common goals into doing things your way, or they are not allowed to have a voice. Your YouCaring page states that “[your] scholarship was rescinded due to professors inability to understand [your] grief over the continuous black genocide in this country as well as value [your] work and labor as a student organizer and lived praxis of academic material. Let me reiterate: you cannot have it all. You cannot miss class, fail to complete homework, and perform poorly on exams and expect professors to give you passing grades. Kalamazoo College is a learning institution, and it’s clear that your education and the education of others (that you and your followers have continuously interrupted) is not a priority for you. With that said, why remain at the institution? To change it for the better? A noble goal, definitely. However, since the #UnsafeAtK movement, personal attacks on teachers, a multitude of protests, and blatant disrespect for an institution that has given all of us an incredibly gift and opportunity, racial tensions have only increased, the polarization of the campus has become suffocating, and an ever-increasing majority of students want nothing to do with movements like #UnsafeAtK or #BlackLivesMatter, as you have pushed them away with a self-serving dog-and-pony show that exists under the guise of a progressive movement.

    Was it all worth it?

  7. Rian,

    As a fellow POC, I see you.
    Thank you for sharing your views on the climate at K. Much of it is how I also feel being a student here. This school is really good in many ways, but it also has a lot of work to do in how it treats and serves it’s POC. Unlike what many people in the comments believe, I know that not all violence is physical. It can be through aggressive speech, body language, hate crimes, institutional policies, etc…

    This piece was so brave.
    Thank you!

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Letter: #UnsafeAtK is Still Our Reality