Washington & Jefferson College students founded the first Black Student Union as a recognized club on campus in 1972. However, due to a low number of minority students, the BSU slowly faded away. In 1991, a new generation of black students reestablished the BSU. Today, the BSU holds the same mission as it did when it was initially founded: to create a community for minority students and uplift their voices on campus.
Rev. Phyllis Glover
Rev. Phyllis Glover ‘74 is the original founder and first president of the Black Student Union at Washington & Jefferson College, which she established in 1972. Rev. Glover demonstrated determination as she endured resistance and little support from administration and notable professors. Along with the BSU, Rev. Glover was the Coffeeshop Crew manager and a member of Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society, Delta Phi Alpha German Honor Society, the Buskin Club, and the Pre-Legal Society. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Rev. Phyllis Glover went on to gain her master’s in Finance and Marketing from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Later, Rev. Glover achieved Masters of Divinity and Theology at the Union Theological Seminary.
The Current State of Our Union
In May of 2020, George Floyd was tragically murdered by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Following his murder, Washington & Jefferson College’s Black Student Union was the first entity associated with the college to release a statement about the racism and corruption within the American judicial system. This message was drafted by Kwinton Adams ‘20 and Jasmine Dey ‘23 and reflected the views of the entire 2019-2020 Black Student Union Executive Board.
In 1991, the year after its reestablishment, the Black Student Union hosted its first Step Show. Step is a form of dance that uses spoken words, stomping, and claps to create sound and movement. Step was first developed and performed in the. 1940s and 1950s by historically African-American fraternities and sororities. The Washington & Jefferson College’s BSU invited students from BSU organizations and Black Action Societies at neighboring colleges including the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, West Virginia University, and the California University of Pennsylvania. In total, the event had nearly 400 hundred people in attendance with 150-200 being Washington & Jefferson students.
The Constitution of the Black Student Union
Senior Will Thomas ‘91 and other black upperclassmen and women aimed to create a Black Student Union at Washington & Jefferson College. However, with their time at Washington & Jefferson coming to an end, they relied on younger black students to fulfill the goals of the drafted constitution and create a fully realized Black Student Union on campus. This document from the faculty minutes from March 8, 1991 contain the constitution as presented by the Black Student Union in the process of gaining approval, support, and recognition as an official student organization from the school.