Built on “Progress and Service”

1961 is the year the first Black students set foot on Tech’s campus, making the Institute the first in the deep south to admit African American students without a court order, a pioneering moment in history. In 2023, a little over 62 years later is the year that the United States Supreme Court overturned Affirmative Action, thereby establishing another pioneering moment in the history of higher education, but I daresay a decision that is negatively rewriting it. 

To be a Black student at Tech is no doubt an experience full of pride, resilience and unwavering pursuit of goals, but it is also one that can be “unwelcoming” and “isolating” in the words of a conglomerate of Black Tech students. 

As president of the Georgia Tech African American Student Union (GTAASU), we do not take lightly the ability to nurture and continue cultivation of an environment and safe space that combats such isolation. In fact, we were built on such a belief: that collective action and coalition building are fundamental factors to define and pour into the Black student experience here. 

It is on such belief, that I feel that the Black student experience has stood the test of time because of the very students within it. Our organization was founded in 1968 as the GTAASU immediately following the assassination of Dr. King, and thereby established not only a dialog with Tech’s administration but a precedent for change and the genuine demand that Black students are not only granted the right to attend here on equal terms, but also the right to remain and be treated as equals. 

Now, in 2024, in a tremulous period of higher education reform, these conversations are being revisited in light of the very looming reality that students of color as a whole, will no longer feel qualified to attend an institution such as this. In reality, students of color have excelled at this school just as much as all who are accepted and conferred degrees once they “get out.” 

Georgia Tech’s motto is “Progress and Service,” and it is at the core of the institute. As a senior Black student, GTAASU has indoctrinated this motto by not only serving as a beacon of Black joy in the pursuit of collective progress as we embark on our respective journeys both within and out of the Georgia Tech community, but also one of service as we serve in organizations, research, athletics, the arts and numerous capacities in those very communities. 

Make no mistake, attacks on intelligence, our presence here at the Institute as Black Students and the audacity to label sacred Black Student spaces on campus as “discriminatory,” have all transpired. 

But it is in the true belief of “Progress and Service” that our resilience can
never be taken away from us. 

We are proud to be Jackets, the same degree of pride that motivated GTAASU-founder William Stanley III — who had to utilize Brittain Dining Hall as one of the only safe gathering spots for the Afro-American Alliance on campus in the late 60s — to then come back and design the Campus Recreation Center Swimming Complex with his wife (also a pioneering Tech Alum). 

I challenge everyone reading this to respect the experiences of our peers, because to some degree, we have all been affected by history and the course of history being rewritten today. 

I believe that such respect, empathy and understanding will foster a resilient sense of community rather than the presently-isolating one. 

We stand on the foundation of Giants, and it is now our time to make a change.