For four-and-a-half minutes on Thursday, Haas students, staff, and faculty stood in silence, with their hands up in the air in a position of surrender, in respect for Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and other young African Americans who have died recently at the hands of law enforcement.
The Stand in Solidarity demonstration was organized by several MBA students—in parallel with larger campus demonstrations—to call attention to issues of police brutality and racial profiling.
"Today we want to observe 4.5 minutes of silence because Michael Brown's body had reportedly been left in the street for 4.5 hours," said Angela Steele, MBA 16, who co-organized the demonstration with Emily Yao and Michael Young, all MBA 16 and members of The Consortium, a network focused on promoting underrepresented minorities in business education.
"Many of us have been wrestling privately with the events of the past week, and we wanted to gather publicly and recognize what is happening and respect the lives that have been lost."
Steele, who is the incoming MBA Association's Vice President of Diversity, was referring to the back-to-back decisions by grand juries in Ferguson and New York to drop charges against white police officers involved in lethal altercations with unarmed African Americans—as well as the nationwide upheaval that has followed. Organizers also distributed information packets with news articles and information about the death of Eric Garner, who had been held down in a chokehold; the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland; as well as statistics about police violence in African-American communities.
Dean Rich Lyons, Senior Assistant Dean & Chief Strategy Officer Jo Mackness, and Senior Assistant Dean for Instruction Jay Stowsky were among the Haas administrators, staff, and faculty who joined the students packed into the Bank of America Forum.
"I'm here to stand in solidarity with our students," Stowsky said. "I'm also here because my son is half black. He's only four years old, but he’ll grow up to be a young black man and he'll face these same issues."
Young, a first year student, said he was moved by the strong show of support.
"This has easily been my favorite moment at Haas so far," he said. "If I wasn't talking I would have been crying."
The demonstration was followed that evening with the first of the student-organized series "Hot Topics: The Conversation You Haven't Had," where Haas classmates shared personal stories on controversial topics in talks titled Black in America, Muslim Extremist, and Death With Dignity.
"Hot Topics is supposed to be a conversation starter," said Dan Fishman, MBA 16, who organized the event with classmates Amin Aaser and Kenny Vaugn, both MBA 16, and Ryo Itoh, MBA 15.
The goal of the series is "to create a safe space within the Haas community that triggers the important but difficult conversations around challenges that vex our society, in an effort to create self-aware business leaders who will always think beyond themselves on their journey to shaping our future."