EDITORIAL: How will you transform your purpose?

COVID-19 2024 graduates will soon walk the stage along with their institutional knowledge, but many scars remain

Bachelor student graduates cheer as President Bob Davies declares them graduates during the fall commencement ceremony, Saturday, December 16, in McGuirk Arena. (Marie Underwood | CM-Life)

Every soul that enters and leaves Central Michigan University gains and takes away institutional knowledge, and when they are gone for good, that knowledge leaves the general population. Some recognize this, others do not realize this is the case. 

We do have administrators, staff, faculty and students that work relentlessly behind the scenes to preserve this institutional knowledge and look for ways to continue to foster it in an environment that is ever-changing. We also have those that do not care to acknowledge these efforts. 

In the end, there are scars and also triumphs that need not be forgotten. Instead, they should live on in each and every one of us — regardless of how new to the campus some of us may be. 

Diversity has been a hot topic since 2020, when George Floyd was killed during an act of police brutality. This stirred the hearts of many with grief, disgust, anger and disdain toward the police. That act was not the first. 

According to data collected by The Washington Post, during 2021 in the United States, there were at least 1,055 reported people killed by police. The Post began keeping track in 2015, and 2021 marked the most deaths.

Black people account for 13% of the U.S. population; and according to that same 2021 Post report, 27% of those killed by police were Black. The data concluded that Black people are twice as likely as white people to be killed by police officers. 

As for 2023, The Guardian reported that there were 1,232 Americans who died because of police — 23.5% were Black people. The Guardian reported that 2023 was the deadliest year for homicides committed by law enforcement in more than a decade. 

Racism is a wound that has been around for centuries — today, it is less widely accepted and tolerated than it was many years ago. But social media has been a platform that allows racists to spread their disease and impact the lives and traumas of minoritized communities. 

We have seen this on our campus and in universities, high schools, middle schools, workplaces, protests, restaurants — anywhere, you name it, racism is there. Now, how do we make sure CMU is an Anti-Racist community? 

First things first: The campaign that has been very quiet since CMU announced it in 2020. Being an Anti-Racist campus needs to be respired and stabilized so that it does more than just say “We Do” try to be Anti-Racist. 

Throughout the investigation that was conducted by the Society of Professional Journalists and Central Michigan Life, we worked diligently to hold the university accountable to ensure that change can and will be made. CMU has many accomplishments when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion — especially in comparison to institutions across the nation that have completely defunded their DEI programs and offices.

According to the New York Times, in 2023, 84 bills were introduced that targeted diversity programs; 12 of them have become law, and 13 were awaiting signatures from governors as of April 21, 2024. 

Some of those laws include the elimination of D.E.I. programs and offices at public universities and colleges, while others prohibit diversity training and identity-based preferences for hiring and admissions, or the use of state funds for D.E.I. initiatives.  

The states that have currently passed the law include Florida, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Alabama. Florida was among the first to enact the restrictions, including how educators discuss discrimination in mandatory courses, weakening tenure protections as a result, NYT reported. 

In Alabama, the law also limits the teaching of “divisive concepts,” which is in regards to assigning “fault, blame or bias” to any race, religion, gender or nationality, the NYT reported. 

We are in a transformational period that requires that student voices — human voices —to be heard. We have grown too used to being reactive instead of proactive to enact the systematic, sustainable change to discourage these kinds of laws from being considered, let alone passed. 

At CMU, we have made change, and some of our leaders have stood tall with us. When many of us walk the stage on May 3 and 4, we will have not only juggled academia, social lives, mentorship, personal obstacles, job searches and discrimination that has targeted our peers or us directly, we have also battled the everlasting impacts of COVID-19. 

The undergraduate class of 2024 was the high school seniors of 2020 who had their last year ripped away from them — unable to have a prom, say final goodbyes to their favorite teachers or have a graduation that recognized their resilience. 

Those 2024 undergraduates who are getting ready to walk the stage will do so with a surge of pride and fulfillment in their chest that may not be the same for those who walked before or will walk after. 

Still, many of our graduates may not feel the same sense of pride they would have before the recent racial discrimination issue that happened on campus. We at CM Life respect that and recognize it, and we are not asking that you accept or forgive, but instead we would like to urge students to relish your moment.

Be proud of yourself and the individual actions you have taken to get to where you are now. Do not let another’s actions or words hold you back from the massive aplishment you have been working toward for years. You have passed through so many trials and tribulations that go against the typical college experience. 

Take these experiences with you — good and bad — and use them to build yourself into the person you want to be. Then, impact others so that these different experiences can be recognized and shared. 

You have immense power for change — even if you feel a heavy weight in your chest that you do not wish to bear. Every experience in our lives happens for a reason, as unfortunate as many of them are. So, what will you make of that, and how will you transform it into your purpose? 

To those who graduate: Keep your chin held high, be so very proud of yourself and know that wherever you go, you belong. And that as you and your institutional knowledge leave campus, CM Life is working diligently to make sure those wounds are healed properly and all that remains is a scar reminding us how far we will have come.