Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN political commentator and BET News correspondent, spoke on “Promoting Diversity in Education” for Quinnipiac’s annual Black History Month address last Monday night. However, the number of students at the event was lacking, according to those in attendance.
The event was originally scheduled for Feb. 15, but was postponed due to inclement weather conditions that prevented Hill’s flight from departing. Many attendees were upset about the small turnout at the rescheduled event, which was held on the first school day back from spring break.
“Honestly, I wish more people came because a lot of the things he was saying, our campus needed to hear,” senior political science major Asia Skyers said. “And it doesn’t just affect brown and black bodies—it affects everybody. And a lot of the people that it did affect, were present today.”
Despite the small turnout, Hill still brought up controversial issues about diversity.
He said that diversity is important, but justice is even more important because the two are intricately connected. He described Aug. 9, 2014—the day Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri—as the beginning of a modern day human rights movement speaking out against state violence and speaking for justice.
“That sustained movement for justice asserting that black lives matter, meant that black lives don’t just matter when they’re getting shot by police, they don’t just matter when they’re getting choked down, they don’t just matter when they put lead in the water, black lives matter on college campuses as well,” Hill said.
Hill explained that state violence comes in many ways ranging from having first class jails and second class schools, to rape culture and sexual assault. Hill said that these issues should not be thought of as individual campus problems.
“We’ve got to think about it as part of a broader political challenge we face as a nation to affirm the lives of those who are marked as other,” Hill said.
He also explained the many ways in which universities benefit and are enhanced from diversity.
“Universities don’t have feelings anymore, they just have interests,” Hill said.
Many students who attended the event enjoyed Hill’s straightforward way of speaking.
“I liked that he wasn’t afraid to dance around certain issues. He had a very head on approach to discussing different topics and I think that’s something that we don’t normally see,” said Chereace Marcellin, a junior psychology major. “I think he has such a blunt approach to many different topics and that’s kind of the dynamic we need today so I was very excited to see him.”
Hill also mentioned that university presidents play an important role in the context of diversity on college campuses.
“University presidents are primarily concerned with technocratic rationalities and primarily concerned with the profit making measure as opposed to whether or not students are engaged in learning and nurturing,” he said.
Hill also believes students must solidify and reimagine the way diversity is understood.
“You all have to make this campus be what you want it to be,” Hill said. “You all have to make this campus be as diverse as you want it to be. You have to force the people from the top down to make this institution do what it’s supposed to do.”
Though there was not a large turnout at the event, many students found Hill’s words to be moving.
“It was really impressive,” senior computer information systems major Kereece Williams said. “I think he handled himself really well. I think there’s a lot of stuff that Quinnipiac students can take away.”
Skyers was also inspired and surprised by Hill’s lecture.
“I love new knowledge. He was giving us new knowledge,” she said.