Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is embroiled in controversy after police responded to a noise complaint regarding a group of Black students who were socializing on the ground floor of the library on campus.
Sam Onilenla, who was among the students at the library, described the incident in a lengthy statement posted on social media. The Baylor University junior said the session was supposed to be an opportunity for Black students to study and to get to know each other at the garden level of the Moody Library, where people are permitted to talk and socialize.
We find ourselves on the same cross paths again. Why is race the biggest issue for this campus? I don’t even have the words to answer. But my actions will speak volume. Do better. pic.twitter.com/yAIm52DHRW
— Sammy (@onilenla_sam) January 28, 2021
According to the student’s account, a security guard first approached the group at the library and complained about the noise.
“He walked up to a group of freshmen and said, ‘This is not a basketball arena. This is a study area,’” Onilenla said.
One of the students, Jonah Shaw, said he tried to educate the guard on why the comment was offensive, the Baylor Lariat reported.
“Two of my peers came up to talk to the man as well and ask about the situation,” Shaw said. “Then the man said he was calling back-up, and then he walked away from us. One of my peers was trying to ask him what the problem was. He ignored us and continued walking up the steps. At the top of the steps, he said he was calling Baylor PD.”
Onilenla said a police officer made another offensive comment after approaching the students, describing Shaw’s attempt to educate the security guard as “juvenile.” The students said the officer eventually left, but they never understood why he was called in the first place.
“After that, we went back downstairs, but the vibe wasn’t the same,” junior Runo Egi said. “Everyone was kind of upset. A whole bunch of people left. It was kind of just like, dang, that ruined the mood in the study space.”
Senior Chloe Muñoz, who was working at the library desk while the incident unfolded, said the group was no louder than any other students she had seen while working.
“It just bothers me because I don’t understand why the police were called in when they are just standing around and talking and studying,” Muñoz told the Baylor Lariat. “I’ve seen sororities come down here and have little study groups all the time, and it gets pretty loud, too. But why when a group of Black students tries to do the same thing suddenly, ‘Oh, no, we’re in danger.'”
The students placed the blame on the university and people who allow racism to persist in society.
“The people who run this university hear our cries over and over again, but they fail to do anything in the name of white power,” Onilenla wrote. “Second, the ignorant adults. The ignorant adults who do not understand this is 2021, and whether you like it or not, us Black students are on this campus and we will have an impact here. Educate yourselves because it is not our job to educate you.”
In a statement on Thursday, Baylor University said it’s striving to be a welcoming community on campus as part of its Christian mission.
“Over the past year, we have made a strong commitment to doing better and being better,” the university stated. “In this instance, there was a cultural disconnect, and we simply missed the mark. We understand changes need to be made in how we treat and respect others within the Baylor Family.”
According to Spectrum News, Brittney Wardlaw created Baylor University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2018, but resigned last year, saying her bosses made it difficult to create change.
“This is about to be an uphill struggle to get them to understand the value of equity and this was the beginning of a long, long battle,” Wardlaw said.
Wardlaw said that she was especially concerned with the lack of diversity in the administration.
“Why does this institution have every single person of leadership is white,” she said. “Every single president’s council member, every single provost, every single dean. We had a huge celebration because we had a Black woman who is the chair of the department now. Let’s celebrate because a school that 175 years old cannot manage to find a Black person competent enough to lead.”
According to a study done by College Factual, Baylor University’s student population is 62.7 percent white and 5.9 percent Black or African American, with the rest of the racial demographic percentages being split among several ethnic groups. The same study reports that Baylor’s faculty is 82.9 percent white. Waco is a majority white city with its own sordid and well-documented history of racism.