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Don't let offensive vandalism sour Lemon

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • February 20, 2013

At Issue: Emerson gives us Lemon

Our Take: Go see Don

Don Lemon is, in many ways, the epitome of what a speaker at Emerson should be. Over the past 10 years, Lemon has served as a correspondent at a TV station in Chicago, became the first openly-gay anchor at CNN, and wrote a memoir, Transparent—a span of work that encompasses the aspirations of many students at this school. Everyone at Emerson should consider attending his talk on Tuesday night.

Yet the opportunity to hear about his groundbreaking work is in danger of being overshadowed by a few small-minded acts of vandalism.

In the past two weeks, graffiti has been found in four Emerson buildings. These defacements have been viewed as offensive and discriminatory, prompting emails from resident directors, Dean of Students Ronald Ludman, and President M. Lee Pelton to denounce and alert the community of these incidents. 

These acts are in direct contrast with Lemon’s career, a marker of the progress America has made to break down the barriers faced by racial and sexual minorities. But as the graffiti evidences, attitudes of intolerance and hatred still have a pulse that reaches our own community. The juxtaposition of Lemon’s presence against these prejudiced scribbles should highlight how regressive and underground those attitudes are in an era when students can be inspired by figures like Lemon on campus.

Last May, Emerson announced the appointment of a new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, Sylvia Spears. And upon her arrival in Boston, student diversity activism has soared. Since September there have been multiple opportunities for Emerson students to immerse themselves in cultural seminars, lectures, and discussions. Since last year, there has been a call to diversity awareness unparalleled in Emerson’s history. 

The vandalism that has occurred over the past two weeks while obscene and saddening, are in no way indicative of the current status of our communities stance on diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. But rather, the increase in student involvement in organizations like Emerson’s Black Organization with Natural Interests (EBONI) and excelled outreach on behalf of Diversity and Inclusion. 

Furthermore, last week, President Pelton announced that the Diversity Council will be renamed the Council on Inclusive Excellence and will have undergraduate and graduate student representatives. 

EBONI, which organized Lemon’s event, should be recognized for striving to invite speakers that reflect the cultural and racial diversity that both Emerson students and administrators hope to achieve. Its work to promote African-American Heritage Month has only enlivened on-campus discussions about race and inclusion.

The work of a few vandals shouldn’t detract from the efforts of the college to increase the diversity of its environment—but it should remind us that there’s still work to be done.