GALLOWAY— Students at Stockton University voiced their opinions Tuesday about the fate of the bust of Richard Stockton removed from the campus library.
A forum hosted by the Student Senate was to serve as a constructive outlet and to create vital conversations to give participants the opportunity to share their perspective, according to the event’s Facebook page.
The meeting began with a historical presentation by Dean of the School of General Studies Robert Gregg, explaining many points about Richard Stockton and his history that are still questioned by those who study history.
Gregg explained that although Stockton signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a known slave owner, bequeathing his slaves to his wife in his will, and also is believed to have signed a letter of allegiance to King George of England in December 1776.
Vice President and Provost Lori A. Vermeulen told the group that currently, a steering committee of faculty, staff and students is taking all opinions into consideration.
The first student to take the podium during the open forum, senior political science major Jake Harris, spoke about the incident two weeks ago when unauthorized flyers and stickers for the white supremacist group Identity Evropa were placed around campus ago, and well as the attention the bust’s removal garnered.
“I think the university has to take the utmost caution and care, in whatever moves going forward, towards the legacy of Richard Stockton,” said Harris.
The university’s temporary removal of the bust, which had been in the library, gained attention from national and international news websites, including the UK’s Daily Mail and Brietbart.
“Am I saying the university needs to back down from assuming moral courage to go forth, no. But I am saying, without taking the utmost for the safety and concern of the students — the university would be foolish to do that.”
Mahalia Bazile, president of Stockton’s Unified Black Student Society, didn’t plan to speak at the forum and had prepared for the worst, but wanted to share her opinion.
“I understand that a lot of people got up here and spoke about how the exhibit is meant to show a whole, encompassing picture of Richard Stockton,” said Bazile. “We’ve heard a lot of the bad, the bad, the bad. Someone who spoke before me said it the best: ‘Does one bad outweigh the good?’ and in this instance, regardless of the time period, I think it does.”
Many students shared the sentiment that the university should not reinstate the bust and also should consider removing the association with Richard Stockton from the school. The forum also turned into a discussion about hate speech and potential threats that some students believed were not properly addressed by the university.
While some student statements condemned the school administration and faculty, many asked for the school to acknowledge diversity and called for students to join together in unity.
Prior to the meeting, students from Professor Elizabeth Erbaugh’s sociology class organized a March for Equality through the campus center.
Chanting feminist and anti-racist sayings, the group said their mission was to rise up and speak out against the acts of hatred and bigotry that have occurred on the campus and in the community.
“I think we need to be mindful. As we’re moving on to a new era, I think we need to be more accepting.” said Jennifer Negron, a junior currently studying social work. “History is history, but as we’re moving on, I think we have to be more culturally competent and sensitive.”