An Open Letter to Baruch: Your Silence is Being Heard

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Black Lives Matter.  We unequivocally condemn the murder of George Floyd, police brutality, and all the anti-black violence embedded in the history of this country.  We also stand committed to our students’ health, safety, and freedom to think and act in the service of justice and change.

Baruch student Teona Pagan sent this statement along with a list of demands to our College and University Administrations.  We publish it here in its entirety:

“On May 25, 2020, the world witnessed George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, take his last breaths. As a white officer continued to press his body weight and knee into the neck of this innocent man, he repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe.” Chilling and haunting, these words are unfortunately not new to us. Society has become desensitized to seeing innocent Black lives be lost under the helm of police brutality. However, because we are currently in the middle of a pandemic where we are supposed to be under quarantine, it struck us all so much harder when we heard of yet another unarmed Black man being murdered in cold blood by the police, the same people who are hired to “protect” us.

As a young Black woman trying to find her footing in society, I was devastated to hear about the killing of George Floyd. Moreover, this news came without barely enough time to recover from hearing about Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Reason, Atatiana Jefferson, and many others whose names and innocent pictures are forever embedded in our memory. And yet, I question: who is here to protect me? Who has my best interest at heart? Baruch and CUNY’s lack of response regarding the current events in America leads me to assume that you do not stand in solidarity and support the Black students that not only attend your institution, but that are being brutally targeted and murdered by police across the nation. The Black student population deserves to be recognized, acknowledged, and heard as valuable members of this society.

According to your website, your mission statement is as follows: “Baruch College of the City University of New York remains dedicated to being a catalyst for the social, cultural, and financial mobility of a diverse student body, reflective of its historical mission.” For a college that prides itself on being stimulants for societal and cultural change, we clearly see a lack of initiative in these departments when it comes to showing up for the very students who work

feverishly to make these dreams possible. Additionally, it is very hard to help carry out this mission when we are being disproportionately killed by the police. In recent news, we have been witnesses to the New York City Police Department showing that they clearly have no regard for preserving the Black body and the life that comes with it. Various news outlets covering the protests from the last week have highlighted the NYPD driving full speed into crowds and then arresting peaceful protesters, an officer tearing a protective mask off of a young black man and then assaulting him with pepper spray while the victim peacefully stood with his hands up, and many instances of officers beating peaceful protesters who want nothing more than justice to be served for their fellow fallen brothers and sisters. While the majority of students at Baruch attend school in hopes of earning a degree from one of the best business schools in the country, they simultaneously do what they can to change the cruel world we live in. The fact of the matter is that this is unattainable without equity and full-on support. This is what we are asking from you today.

We are in a state of emergency. Subsequently, the Black community has become uninterested in meeting on middle ground or speaking delicately about these issues. Not only are we facing the global pandemic that is COVID-19, but we are still at war against the most lethal threat of them all: racism. The police are murdering our people at alarming rates and are rarely being held accountable for their transgressions. However, as student leaders and progressive members of society, it is understood that we too have a stake in the operations of this college.

Therefore, we clearly and without hesitation demand the following:

  1. We demand that CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College release a statement expressing their solidarity with the Black community during these tumultuous times.
  2. We demand that the college ceases any partnership with the New York City Police Department immediately. This is inclusive of any previous contracts, events, security operations, and any additional relations that were inclusive of the New York City Police Department.
  3. We demand that there be a new generation of mental health and counseling resources provided exclusively for Black students to assist in coping properly with the present circumstances. We are not okay, and we should not be expected to operate as such.
  4. We demand that the mental health staff expanded for Black students include Black mental health professionals and give priority to People of Color hires.
  5. We demand the creation of a Black Studies Major Program taught by Black Educators.
  6. We demand the hiring of more Black educators across disciplines and to tenure those who are qualified.

It is injudicious for us to profess inclusion and diversity if they are not supported by action. As an institution, it is imperative that we exert pressure wherever we can to fight for change and justice.

A reply is expected within 24 hours of receipt.

With great exhaustion and frustration, Teona Pagan
A Black Woman

Macaulay Honors Scholar
Secretary of the Baruch Black Student Union
First-Year Seminar Peer Mentor
VP of Administration for the Macaulay Diversity Initiative
Baruch Honors Program Ambassador
Assistant Research Scientist, Center for Strategic Solutions, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and The Transformation of Schools”

2 Comments

  1. Celeste Jannierre says:

    As a fellow Baruch alumni graduate , I too stand with Miss Teona Pagan’s sentiments and demand that this educational institution backs it’s black students and the black community in solidarity with “The Black Lives Matter” movement, and to cease any partnership with the NYPD ASAP, and to afford mental counseling for any and all black students dealing with this devastating trauma, and to hire black professionals equipped to treat those black students who require mental health and to hire black faculty to teach a black studies curriculum from a black stand point and to hire black professors across the educational spectrum and to afford them tenure as well.

  2. Angie Beeman says:

    Thank you for this powerful letter, Teona! I remember your impressive work in my Sociology course and your work with the Coalition for Educational Justice. Your work is important and your voice matters.

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