As a social experiment, he wore normal clothes to class one day to see what would happen. He walked to the seat he had sat in for the past few weeks and the girl he considered an acquaintance looked him in the eye.
“This seat is taken,” he recalls her saying.
“To be a human, to be a student, to be a student-athlete: Three entirely different things,” Maye said. “Auburn as a culture doesn’t always get that.”
Maye is no longer on the track team but has found many — some would say too many — ways to stay busy. He serves as the vice president of Auburn’s NAACP chapter, the director of public relations for the Southern Poverty Law Center on campus and a member of the Black Student Union and Harold A. Franklin Society.
His schedule is packed but much less stressful than it was. Maye said he was working on campus for such long hours in 2017 that it became an issue.
“In fall 2017, I went to sleep on a Sunday and woke up in the hospital on Thursday with no memory or recollection of anything,” Maye said. “My girlfriend was coming over that Monday morning for us to go to the gym, and she found me in my room choking on my tongue.”
His girlfriend performed CPR, and he came back to life. He died again. She got his roommate, and they performed CPR together, and he came back to life. He died again.
Paramedics came and shocked him three times and kept him sustained, he said. He was put in a medically induced coma and woke up four days later.
“From what the doctors told me, I had a stress-induced cardiac death,” Maye said. “It was from me running around doing so much for other people and not looking out for myself. I thought
His girlfriend told him the people waiting for him in the hospital room were as diverse as he dreamed Auburn to be. Singing, praying, talking to him — they tried to wake him up.
Maye said he didn’t want to stop leading, nor could he.
With Richard Spencer’s visit to campus and the White Student Union rearing their heads, Maye felt there was much to be done and just attending classes was not going to work for him.
Auburn’s demographics “are not representative of our state,” Maye said.
He said he thought that white supremacist efforts on campus would hurt the recruitment of minorities, but the numbers have been stagnant for a long while anyway. In recent years, the number of black students as a proportion of Auburn’s total enrollment has even declined.
This year, about 6 percent of Auburn’s total student enrollment is black, according to Office of Institutional Research. There are 889 more white students on campus this year compared to last, but there are 24 fewer black students enrolled.
“Auburn gets complacent,” said Monroe Clayton, sophomore in political science and director of community and equity for Auburn’s Black Student Union. “We are okay with being good enough, but why wouldn’t you strive to be great? What Auburn has failed to do is go into some of the neighborhoods they should be going to.”
Clayton said when the University looks over minority communities, they are robbing the country of future contributors to society.
Maye said recruitment trips should have real students out in communities, telling young men and women they can make it at Auburn.
“I feel like at one point Auburn was focusing on diversity numbers as far as international students, and what they didn’t realize was that they put a barrier and an imaginary conflict between domestic minorities and international minorities,” Maye said. “You see Auburn reaching out across seas, but they won’t reach out to folks in this state.”
Maye wasn’t surprised by the recruiting efforts at Auburn. He was not looking for complete acceptance when he came in.
“I was taught that no matter what world you are in when you are in the South, you are in a black and white world,” Maye said.
Monroe said when he walks down the concourse, he finds himself hyper-aware of his race. He said he sees someone hand a white
He said wonders if it’s because he is black.
Maye said knowing what he did about living in a black and white world, he could not help but want what he saw on the television screen or at football games — friendships with people that didn’t look like him and acceptance at his University.
It didn’t happen, he said.
Maye quoted James Baldwin, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” He’s seen efforts to link the majority and the minority, but there are always complications, he said.
Even though college is thought to be a time when horizons are broadened and ways of thinking are challenged, it’s not always that way. When some students get to campus, they find more like-minded individuals that can push them toward the extremes of there own beliefs — pushing minorities even farther away from the majority.
“Your crowd is going to look like you, but the majority is not going to come in the room even though your organization says they are inclusive of all,” Maye said. “They see black people and say, ‘That’s only for black people.’”
BSU’s motto is “Unity through education.” Maye stressed that the motto has no color and the organization welcomes all.
As an involved member of the Auburn community and campus, Maye said he wants students and professors to know they are here — know they were the start of the integration of Auburn.
“We are students like everyone else, so treat us as such,” Maye said. “Not as examples or guinea pigs for your lectures or pawns for your sports, because we are more than that.”