Johnson aims to integrate minority students into the greater system
When second-year College student Martese Johnson campaigned for College representative to the Honor Committee, he ran on a platform largely grounded on his experience as a minority student at the University.
“If we don’t have minority students, international students or women, then you’re not making decisions that reflect everyone at the University,” Johnson said. “Instead, you’re making decisions that reflect one population at the University, so we’re not a very solid community of trust.”
Johnson, who was elected last week, hopes to create a more cohesive environment within the honor system by acting as a liaison between the Committee and minority students. Through his position, he hopes to encourage more minority students to become involved in organizations which govern the student body.
“You have to inspire those students to want to be the change instead of waiting for someone else to change,” Johnson said. “If students continue to complain without making moves toward changing [the system], then it’ll never change.”
Johnson initially decided to run for the Committee after attending a presentation at the Black Student Alliance’s Emerging Leaders retreat and noticing the lack of diverse representation.
“If you look at the last Honor Committee, there was not one black person,” Johnson said. “You never have students that are completely in the minority communities. I am hoping to be a minority student that’s tied to minority organizations while also supporting the University as a whole.”
Johnson stressed the importance of having minority students on the Committee to represent a greater spectrum of backgrounds.
“It’s not just seeing a face on the Honor Committee,” he said. “It’s about sharing different perspectives that everyone doesn’t have, because not everyone [called to trial] is from the same background.”
Johnson’s campaign reflected his concern that the University tends to silence minorities. While he gained support from some University sectors during his campaign, he said he sensed an equivalent amount of doubt.
“If you look at the last Honor Committee,
there was not one black person,” Johnson said.
“You never have students that are completely
in the minority communities. I am hoping to be a
minority student that’s tied to minority organizations
while also supporting the University as a whole.”
“There were some racially charged insults and blows toward my actual knowledge and experience with Honor,” Johnson said. “Though my experience may be limited, my knowledge of Honor is as expansive as any other student that also ran for Honor, simply because I decided to educate myself thoroughly on my own.”
Johnson was one of the few candidates who ran for an Honor Committee representative spot who had not previously served as a non-elected member of Honor.
While he hopes to bring greater representation to the Committee, Johnson also aspires to integrate minority students into the University honor system as a whole, namely through the promotion of information sessions specifically for minority organizations.
“Communication is key, and I think we need a lot more of it,” Johnson said.
Ultimately, Johnson said he wished to see increased minority participation in both elections and the University as a whole.
“U.Va. is a very passive university — we tend to let everything go,” Johnson said. “We need to start saying stuff, whether it’s negative or positive, so we can make people realize what this university really is and move toward a better university in the future.”