The Memorial for Enslaved Laborers organization held a student forum Monday evening to discuss University President Teresa Sullivan’s new commission on slavery and plans for the group’s proposed memorial.
Memorial committee chair Edna Turay, a fourth-year College student who will serve on Sullivan’s commission, opened the forum by outlining the goals of the 27-member commission, comprised of administrators, alumni, local residents and students. The commission plans investigate the historical significance of buildings on Grounds in regards to slavery and inform members of the University community about the University’s history of enslaved laborers.
“The commission was established because there were different factions of the University trying to achieve the same goal,” Turay said.
Created in early September, the commission is currently developing a memorial to commemorate slavery at the University. The process is still in its early stages, and a lot of the discussion among memorial committee members focused on ways to accelerate the process.
“The primary concern is that there is no timeline for the commission,” Turay said.
The project is currently slated to be finished by 2017, but memorial committee members hope the project can be completed sooner. “We’re shooting for 2016 or 2015,” Turay said. “I graduate in 2014, so hopefully something tangible can occur by May.”
The forum also addressed the problem of low student involvement on the issue. Turay is currently the only undergraduate student on the commission.
“Do not let this issue be hijacked by the University,” said Assoc. Education Prof. Walter Heinecke, member of University and Community Action on Race and Equality, the organization which is overseeing the memorial committee’s project.
Though students may lack in representation on the commission, many student organizations are supporting the planned memorial. This year, all proceeds from the University Guide Service’s Colonnade Ball in February benefitted the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers, and the Seven Society, a secret society at the University, has given a four-figure donation.