Black Student Union seeks to educate, empower, and elevate Lipscomb community
Lipscomb's Black Student Union fosters an accommodating and supportive environment for Black students on campus
Kim Chaudoin |
Dorie Harrison believes strongly that education is the foundation to breaking barriers amongst every community and that it has the ability to change the world. She believes that not only in the context of earning a college degree at an institution such as Lipscomb University, but also in creating advocacy and awareness of important issues that affect the world we live in.
As president of Lipscomb University’s Black Student Union (BSU), Harrison has incorporated education into the organization’s core themes as she and her leadership team have worked to grow its impact in the Lipscomb community. The mission of BSU is to foster an accommodating and supportive environment for Black students as it seeks to elevate and amplify the voices of the students at Lipscomb University. In addition, in recognition of the need for an organization to meet the academic, political, spiritual and social needs of Black students, BSU seeks to establish and maintain an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.
Harrison says the organization does that through the shared virtues of integrity, kindness, unity, diligence and compassion. “Our dedication to cultivating camaraderie and fellowship with varying cultures makes us a family—a Black Student Union,” she says. The BSU accomplishes this by sponsoring diverse and culturally engaging activities and conversations throughout the year.
Harrison is joined by a diverse leadership team that includes Trey Phillips, vice president and chaplain; Calah Gipson, events chair and bookkeeper; Daysha Collins, director of public relations; and Madison Schomer, secretary.
“As a team, our first order of business this semester was to reinstate the purpose of this organization,” says Harrison, a rising-senior marketing major who is a member of the women’s basketball team. “We asked ourselves if we just wanted to get together from time-to-time, put on a couple events a year and make this smaller student organization. But we sat down and really thought about what we want to accomplish through this organization and embrace every ounce of potential this organization has built in it.”
So, Harrison led the team in developing the three pillars of BSU—educate, empower and elevate. “We want everything we do, whether it be virtual, in person, a conversation or an event, to align with one of these three pillars,” she explains. “We have to be intentional about what we do and the message we are sending.”
Harrison emphasizes that BSU is for all Lipscomb students to learn, grow and actively educate themselves. “Inclusivity is important to us and this is an organization that is for everyone,” she says. “We also care about education. Over time, I have learned from open conversations about important topics with many viewpoints that some people simply just do not know. My belief is that you can’t punish someone for ignorance or lack of experience. Instead, we must take the time to extend grace and opportunity for everyone to bridge that gap and grow closer in understanding. This is why education is one of our three foundational pillars. Once people are educated and aware, then it’s up to them to take that information and decide what to do with it. We always want to give everyone a fair chance to learn more about us.”
Although the 2020-21 school year limited some of BSU’s programming, the organization hosted several events. Last fall, BSU hosted a panel discussion called "Our Story, Past, Present and Future," which provided a look at the past and how the civil rights movement affects the present day and our future America.
In February, a variety of events were held for Black History Month including:
- Virtual Family Feud Night, in partnership with the African Student Association and the Student Activities Board
- Got Credit? A virtual student financial literacy seminar, in partnership with the Lipscomb Black Alumni Council
- Bison Break Day Movie Marathon
- The Black Family Panel: Old School vs. New School
- Weekly themed lunches in the Bison Cafe
- Black Family Sitcom Marathons in the OID lounge
“In our panel discussion this fall we talked about the present and we talked about the future,” says Harrison. “We can't erase history and we can't predict the future. However, it is important for us to cultivate a future that we all want to live in.”
Inclusivity is important to us and this is an organization that is for everyone. — Dorie Harrison, BSU president
“As president, I also want to make sure that faith is an integral part of what we do because before Black or white, we're all Christians—we're all children of God,” she continues. “But the world we live in has affected us each differently. There's value in talking about our individual experiences, being open about them, while not condemning any other group…however, BSU is a delegated space to speak our truth.”
A native of Nashville, Harrison says when she first came to Lipscomb as a transfer from the University of Kentucky, she did not see a lot of people on campus who looked like her. While she was confident that she “would be fine” academically, Harrison recalls a desire to find a place of camaraderie and a safe space in her new environment. She soon discovered the Office of Intercultural Development, which housed the Black Student Union, and she has been involved ever since.
“We are all about community. We have a vision of helping increase the minority and African American student body percentage. We want Lipscomb to be a place where people of color want to come,” explains Harrison. “I am a marketing major, and we have one of the best Colleges of Business in this region. I do not want someone to miss out on the great experience and opportunity that I have had here because of lack of representation.”
Harrison says BSU has received “great support and encouragement from the Lipscomb administration, faculty and staff. I know, they are wanting that safe space for students, as much as we do and we appreciate all their cooperation and help,” she says.
BSU is an organization formed in 2017 after a period of racial conflict on campus following a controversial university event. Since that time, the organization has worked to create awareness and education towards the Lipscomb community about the experiences of Black students, social injustice and to elevate the appreciation of Black culture.
“Although this organization was originally born out of a time of conflict—and many universities have gone through similar times—BSU has persevered and developed into a powerful voice for students, especially Black students. I believe we are now at a place where we have a good balance of being a liaison to the administration while also serving the student body,” says Harrison. “The importance of being a liaison with the administration is to have an organized way to communicate the student community's needs with the administration‘s expectations so that we can come to a middle ground and vice versa. It serves as a sort of checks and balances relationship.”
To stay up-to-date with the latest BSU events and activities, follow them on Instagram @bsulipscomb.
NOTE: Lipscomb University underscores that membership or participation in Black Student Union is not limited by sex, race or ethnicity and is open to all students regardless of sex, race or ethnicity.