The social upheaval of summer 2016 continued into its final days this week, and students at some of the country’s top business schools are not staying on the sidelines. Hundreds of Wharton students on Wednesday (Sept. 21) expressed solidarity with communities in two cities rocked by high-profile police shootings, dressing in black and planning school-wide community events to address race, policing, and related issues. They were joined by students at NYU-Stern, Columbia Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Kellogg School of Management, and the Wharton Semester in San Francisco.
On Thursday (Sept. 22), Tulsa, Oklahoma police Officer Betty Shelby was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the Sept. 16 shooting death of Terence Crutcher, 40. The shooting on a Tulsa street was captured on video. On Tuesday (Sept. 20) in Charlotte, Keith L. Scott, 43, was shot by Officer Brentley Vinson. Police say Scott was holding a gun before he was shot, while friends and family say it was a book; police say they have no plans to release a video of the incident to the public.
Immediately in the wake of the Charlotte shooting, that city saw two days of widespread and mostly peaceful protests and demonstrations. However, according to reports, protests in the Uptown district of Charlotte turned violent Wednesday night and a man was shot in what authorities called a “civilian-on-civilian” crime. The man was reportedly on life support at a local hospital. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Wednesday night.
WHARTON, STERN, COLUMBIA, KELLOGG, HARVARD STUDENTS UNITE
In the wake of the recent shootings and following a summer of other high-profile deaths involving police use of force, Wharton’s African American MBA Association and Return on Equality, a coalition of student groups that seeks to make students advocates of diversity both personally and professionally, met Tuesday to discuss some kind of response, says Dimia Fogam, MBA Class of 2017 and president of the AAMBAA.
“Following the release of the video of Terence Crutcher being shot in Tulsa, many members of the AAMBAA community, obviously distressed, had internal and informal conversations,” Fogam tells Poets&Quants. “Towards the end of Tuesday night, AAMBAA leadership, ROE leadership and several allies representing other groups on campus met to discuss what we could do to engage the school-wide community in dialogue regarding race and policing. We decided that members of AAMBAA and our allies would wear black to campus and ask our friends and classmates to do the same. Wearing black was a sign of mourning, but more importantly was an indication of a willingness to engage in difficult conversations about race and policing.
“The decision was made around 10:30 p.m. and the 10 people in the room spread the word through Facebook, Groupme and text message. Yesterday (Wednesday), over 300 of our classmates wore black in support. Unsolicited by us, through word of mouth, some professors and administrators also joined us. Students from NYU-Stern, CBS, and Kellogg joined yesterday.”
‘WE WILL CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION’
Stressing that the demonstration of solidarity was “not a protest, not something sexy or exciting,” Fogam says it’s about having conversations in small groups and engaging in inter-group communication as a path toward greater understanding. The Wharton response to national events and that of other schools arose “almost simultaneously,” she says, though she credits her alma mater for being “an engaging school” and lauds students and faculty there for a “very positive response.” That positivity comes about in large part because the message is so positive, Fogam says, and easy for people to get behind.
The message will continue to be spread in a Sept. 29 on-campus forum called Why Wharton Wore Black, Fogam says, hosted by AAMBAA and ROE. “We will continue the conversation,” she says. “We will continue to wear black along with our peers and allies for the rest of the week and continue to engage our peers in the difficult conversations.”
That will be the case elsewhere as well, she expects, after having talked with friends at other schools. “It’s all been extremely positive. At Wharton it’s been exceptionally positive and I think it’s been the same at other schools.”
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