BY KAMANI BROWN & HOPE HYNSON
On the afternoon of Thursday, November 1st, students and allies came together and occupied the areas in front of McKeldin Library and the Administration building. The congregation included many supporters and representatives from NAACP, SGA, and a flood of other student organizations, alumni, and allies. Joined together to fight for justice for Maryland offensive lineman Jordan McNair, who died earlier this year, the crowd rallied passionately in support of fair treatment for student athletes.
McNair passed in June 2018 after suffering from heat stroke due to overexertion during a University of Maryland football workout held on May 29th 2018. Investigation by Walters Inc. show his death could have been prevented with proper medical treatment. In response to these investigations, the head football coach, DJ Durkin, has been fired, the chairman of the Board of Regents, James T. Brady, has resigned, and the President of the university, Wallace D. Loh, has announced his June 2019 retirement.
Those who gathered to rally to demand justice for Jordan marched and chanted from McKeldin Library down to the Administration building. At the Administration building where selected leaders and faculty gave speeches. Before those speeches began, there was a moment of silence held to honor the life of the late McNair. The speakers included Jasmine Washington, president of the university’s chapter of NAACP, Dr. Stephen Thomas, a professor in McNair’s School of Public Health, and various representatives of the university’s SGA.
The rally started as a platform to express condolences for the McNair family, and to demand that those who were responsible for his death be held accountable and fired for their actions. However, the rally lost steam and the messages became confused as the SGA leaders called for students to mass support this week’s game to show solidarity with the student athletes hurt by the loss of their teammate. Some students agreed with this sentiment, but many others had concerns that this would only send the message that the student body was still supporting the athletic department and the administration that created the toxic and intolerant culture in which multiple students have now died, so they called for a boycott of the game.
Some of the other concerns raised by students were: decreasing the mandatory athletic fee, dismissal of other athletic staff who have some sort of responsibility in the case, and further transparency regarding values of the football athletic program and the way in which the school handles incidents of racial hate and bias.
Moving forward, one message that is important for everyone to hold onto is that the last thing anyone wants to do is to further alienate our fellow students. Support for the athletes and others affected by McNair’s death and all of the other instances of marginalization on campus can be shown in many different ways. Some may go and flood the football games to show their support while others may participate in future rallies and actions to help affect structural change at the university. Regardless, this is a crucial time in which student voices can and should be heard and administration, as always, needs to pay attention to what its students are saying.