Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Everyone wants to eat their cake and have it too, but here at the University of Maryland, that just can’t happen. Like a cheap clown, the university is incapable of successfully juggling several issues and projects.
We have bigger issues to address.
While this university shouldn’t celebrate Key’s racist legacy with a building, it also shouldn’t focus its time and resources on this issue before improving the quality and livability of aging buildings around campus.
Just this month alone, the construction projects and constant machinery around campus inadvertently led to a connection outage that affected students’ learning opportunities. Students received emails that an international affairs career panel was moved online due to Purple Line construction leaving the original location’s elevator and wifi unusable. That same morning, I went to class on the other side of campus just to see a sign saying my class — among many others — was canceled or relocated due to the connection issues.
We task our SGA with advocating for what we need most. I appreciate the SGA’s commitment to honoring the university’s values and condemning racist figures, but I would rather it continues to focus on condemning the university for failing to provide students with adequate conditions on campus.
A whole portion of campus shouldn’t be unable to shower or use the bathroom due to a water main break. I’m tired of eduroam failing me when I’m in the middle of class. The university has eight dorms without air conditioning that students frequently complain about. This fall, temperatures rose so high that the university had to provide students with alternative sleeping arrangements.
Current university protocol says any individuals honored with a building represent the university’s values. While some have said Key does not fit with our values, this doesn’t mean it must be the issue that SGA pushes the university to address first.
SGA pushed an emergency order for deciding a building name as though the entire student body believes it’s a pressing matter. SGA should use its position as our student body’s voice to call for emergency action on more substantial problems that all students want changed rather than minor and superficial issues like this.
After changing the words on the building and updating all the maps, the SGA and university can celebrate a step in the right direction. Like naming the public policy building Thurgood Marshall Hall, this university can celebrate with pomp and circumstance about its dedication to inclusion.
But truly good values and inclusion is not about the names outsiders see on our buildings — it’s about how much support our community receives from within. If conditions within our buildings look bleak, plastering new shiny letters outside in the name of values and morality is like putting makeup on a pig.
It might look good on maybe two news stories max, but then students will just keep complaining about the lack of AC, spotty wifi connection and moldy dorms until these shameful problems overshadow our good reputation.
This university’s values don’t lie in the names put on buildings, but rather in the actions it takes. Focus needs to be put on providing a quality education experience to all students — especially those whose identity challenges Key’s racist background.
SGA should focus its advocacy on improving major facilities for students. It should also push for increasing accessibility and more transparency in regards to blockages on campus. In addition, SGA should support increasing the magnitude and availability of mental health and disability accommodation on campus. These issues should be at the top of SGA’s agenda, far above a building name.
Our attention cannot be moved away from the more pressing matters on campus. This is not the issue students want addressed first. SGA knows this. It knows our campus’ values, where we stand and what we want. It’s time this campus tackled its true faults.
Lynelle Essilfie is a freshman public policy major. She can be reached at email@example.com.