I’m a co-president of Northwestern’s QuestBridge Scholars Network, yet most students don’t know about the work I do. Even some low-income, first-generation students don’t realize that Quest is for them. My friends probably only know about Quest because I tell them, and my peers are constantly saying, “Oh … I think I’ve heard of that … remind me what it is again?”
Quest is just one of many important groups on campus that often get overlooked. Often, these groups serve a marginalized population, making those who do this work feel even more overlooked than they already do on a day-to-day basis. When Quest painted The Rock Thursday night, we were excited about some much-needed visibility: the chance to promote the I’m First campaign and our own Money Matters Week.
When some of our exec members arrived around 9:45 a.m. on Friday, we discovered that The Rock was different. All our dollar signs were gone — the Alpha Mu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha had painted over them. Moreover, they painted over the trees in front of The Rock that served as memorials to the late Kenzie Krogh and Mohammed Ramzan, who himself was a Quest Scholar. We are a group of students that can sometimes feel erased from campus — in conversations, in activities, in syllabi, in social life. We definitely felt erased that morning.
This incident speaks to the larger issue of students failing to be aware of how their activities will affect this campus. I believe that the leadership of Alpha Mu was entirely well-intended — student organizations can be hard to manage, and it can be difficult to ensure that the actions of each group member are being monitored. That being said, it is up to individual students to be aware.
If you don’t know the names Mohammed Ramzan or Kenzie Krogh — or Scott Boorstein, or Jordan Hankins, or Chuyuan Qiu, depending on how long you’ve been here — you’re not paying enough attention. It is your responsibility as a member of our community to be sensitive to campus issues. But at the very least, you should know what’s going on. Plug into your communities, engage and be informed. I can promise it will add much more meaning to your own experience, as well as the ones of those around you.
I am grateful that the Alpha Mu chapter sent an apology directly to me very shortly after we discovered what happened. The mishap was certainly not an intent to erase the voices of the students who are the subject of these campaigns. I was able to help Michael Smith, the National Pan-Hellenic Council executive board president, repaint the names along with another student, Yusuf Mussa. Quest sincerely appreciates their help, as well as the rest of the Alpha Mu chapter’s efforts to rectify the situation.
This experience showed me that being well-intentioned is not always enough. Whether you have formal leadership roles on campus or not, it’s important to be as informed as possible to prevent situations like these from happening again.
Northwestern QuestBridge Scholars Network Co-President