Faces of Pittsburgh

The Search for Equality 

By ELIZABETH BENIGNI 
embst18@mail.rmu.edu

“I want to change someone’s life.” Chauncey T. Alexander’s words form a stream of confidence as he speaks. His brown eyes look around the room, as if to see someone listening. Chauncey, a freshman communication major at Robert Morris University (RMU), sees college as an opportunity to sharpen his leadership skills.

A graduate from Perry Traditional Academy, Chauncey was born and raised in the North Side of Pittsburgh by a single mother who worked and went to college for most of his childhood. He says he finds his ambition to be attributed to his background. Chauncey says there are many people like him, who are doing everything but what he is doing with his life.  He says the answer to this issue is to be a leader.  “That’s why I do what I do,” he said.

Chauncey has showcased his leadership skills since he was in high school. His accolades include being the senior class president, student council president, and the editor-in-chief of the year book. He was also involved in theater, band, and helped with assisting school counselors.

Although Chauncey was highly involved in high school, he quickly learned that college was a different atmosphere. “Leading in college is different than leading in high school. I need to redefine my leadership skills,” he admitted.

In his first semester at RMU, Chauncey became involved with a variety of  groups on campus including: the Black Student Union, Student Program Board, Student Government Association, RMU Pittsburgh Promise Cohort, and the Black Male Excellence Network (B-MEN).  

During his second semester, Chauncey jumped into leadership roles. He became the president of the RMU Pittsburgh Promise Cohort and vice president of communications for B-MEN.

 Assistant Director of Student Life for Multicultural Affairs at RMU, Paul Spradley, recalls Chauncey’s behavior at the B-MEN officer elections.

“He ran for the vice president position and he didn’t get it. Then he ran for vice president of Communications. People kept nominating him because he was so fiery that he ultimately ending up getting a position,” Paul remembered.

As much praise as Chauncey receives, he will always see room to grow.

 “I may be not as effective as a leader as I could be,” he admitted. His duties as RMU Pittsburgh Promise Cohort president and vice president of communications of B-MEN can definitely help him to hone and develop his leadership skills.

Maggie Harden, vice president of communications for RMU Pittsburgh Promise Cohort, believes that Chauncey is a strong leader, yet has his challenges.

“He is a good leader, but at times I think most people may seem a bit intimidated by him,” she said.

Although Chauncey may need to work on some of his leadership qualities, he finds it hard to grow here at RMU. As an African American male, Chauncey points out the lack of diversity in leadership positions at RMU.

“There is no diversity [on campus],” he says. The lack of diversity in leadership positions is something that is known around campus, he says.

 “There is no room for us to be who we are and it’s upsetting” Chauncey shared.

He finds being a young, African American with drive as a gift and a curse. “He is a young, black man who wants to do something, so he is going to be great” Chauncey states while smiling, but then quickly considers the other side of equation “But it’s a curse because they count me out a lot. I’ve been counted out so many times,” he said.

Paul Spradley sees this situation differently, however.

 “As an African American student, it’s a greater opportunity for Chauncey because of the lack of diversity in leadership positions on campus” Paul stated.

 It is not only the leadership positions that are attributing to the blind racism, but Chauncey says it’s the campus as a whole. He thought that he would have been part of an environment that included people who supported one another.

 “It’s not even being a young male and black. It’s being young and black. There are about 300 [black] men and 200 black women and they all stand alone,” he said with a spark of passion and a glint of anger in his eyes.   

Chauncey realizes that there is not much he can do by himself to change the campus, so he calls on his fellow students. “They said ‘that if we all got together we would be a force, and because we’re all apart we are not,’” he said, quoting his friends. Chauncey believes that if the student body as a whole would join together, campus life would be more enjoyable for everyone.  Although he takes pride in his race, Chauncey admits that he just wants people to realize that the color of someone’s skin should not mean much on this campus.

“I’m a human first and black second” He said, referring to his yearning for equality on campus.

 He admits that some African American organizations, such as the Black Student Union and notably, African American Greek life, have been trying to get everyone involved.

“The white people on campus think [these organizations] are just for black people. It’s made by black people but not made for black people. It becomes a whole racial issue when it doesn’t have to” Chauncey said. “I can’t change people’s perceptions, but I’ll do what I can”

With his collegiate career ahead of him, Chauncey says he is excited about his future. “I guess I can use this time to announce my candidacy for 2014 class president,” he said, laughing.

Although he sees obstacles concerning Chauncey’s race, many consider his race to be a beneficial aspect to his leadership roles.

“When someone comes along who is an African American that wants to do something, people are going to ask him to do everything. [Chauncey] is going to be the spokes person in a lot of situations because he is not afraid to try new things,” Paul shared. While Chauncey has his sights set high his own future, and the future of RMU student organizations, one cannot help but keep sights set on him.