Michigan State News
April 23, 1996
"BSA elects new chairperson"
by Heather Johnson
The way Sydney Plant sees it, MSU could do more to make minority students like herself feel at ease on campus.
"Iím glad I came here," the social relations junior said. "But I donít think a lot of students of color are happy to be here. I think you can find problems at any campus, but with the big university, I think a lot of minority students feel alienated."
As the newly-elected chairperson of MSUís Black student Alliance, Plant, 20, plans to help make minority studentsóspecifically Black studentsófeel more comfortable. BSA, a 27-year-old group which represents at least 54 Black campus organizations, has always strived for this, she said.
As BSAís financial director this year and as an active member the year before, Plant said she had many worthwhile experiences interacting with other Black students, faculty and staff members and visiting speakers.
Becoming the next BSA chairperson seemed the right thing for her, she said.
"After this year on the executive board having a lot of positive experiences, I really wanted it," she said. "Itís just a part of me. It seemed the natural step."
Because BSA had such a successful year under the leadership of outgoing President Monica Lee, Plant said she doesnít anticipate making many changes. Events like the Black Power Rally in March, the Welcoming Reception in August and programs throughout the year that bring together various minority groups are highlights, she said.
"I think we can enhance what weíve done this year," she said.
However, her goals include expanding on current community service projects, like working with children and the elderly throughout the Lansing area.
Although BSA events draw mostly college students or people in their 30ís, much can be gained from targeting other age groups, Plant said.
"We can learn a lot from older people and from watching our children," she said.
Itís also important to continue getting the word out to the MSU community about what BSA is all about, she said. Every Black student is a BSA member.
"Itís not something you have to join," she said. "Weíre very accessible to students. You donít have to conform to belong. ÖWe definitely try to target freshmen. All college students have problems, but specifically more so in the Black community."
Along with encouraging minority students to unite with one another, itís also good to get white students to attend events so they can learn about different cultures, she said.
Unfortunately, reaching these students can be a challenge, Plant said.
"I think a lot of people donít want to bother with it," she said.
"There are some things we can do together. ÖI canít put my finger on why thereís division on this campus. Weíre trying to help from the inside out."
When Plant isnít involved with BSA activities, she enjoys reading African American literature and hanging out with her friends. However, she said this is a rarity because she dedicates countless hours to the organization.
In three weeks, Plant and Lee will study abroad in South Africa.
"Thatíll bring back some insight and Iím excited about that," Plant said.
But one aspect of attending MSU that Plant doesnít particularly like is the lack of social outlets for the Black community, she said. Many Black students donít seem to enjoy bar-hopping, perhaps because there isnít a place in the area where they feel comfortable, she said.
"Itís been a real effort for Black students," she said. "Itís not just MSU, itís the community we live in."
Fellow BSA members Lee and Thyrone Henderson, the student adviser, have no doubt Plant will take the organization "to a higher level."
"Sheís a very positive sister," Henderson said.
"We couldnít leave it in better hands."
Lee, who is graduating, said she feels good "passing on the Black power torch" to Plant.
"Sheís very articulate and creative, and thatís good for motivation," said Lee.
BSA representatives also selected the following new officers:
-Rosene Cobbs, vice chairperson and editor in chief.
-Nicole Shapely, programming board director.
-Aba Johnson, office manager/financial director.
-Tony Leak, public affairs director.
-Tynesha Williams, community affairs director.
-Janelle Simmons, ASMSU Student Assembly representative.