Students respond to racial slur

By on April 17, 2007

In the wake of the discovery of a racial slur that was written in a dorm March 31, students and administrators are saying that racial relations on campus are a major problem.

“Do I think there is racial tension on campus? Yes,” said Tyrone Black, director of multicultural affairs. “I think there are a lot of students right now that are here for a degree then going back home the way they came here. They’re not looking to change, …That’s not all students, but there are some students who are like that.”

The slur was found written in Irmagarde Tator Hall and is believed to have been targeted at a black student. The incident caused much discussion around campus, prompting student organizations to hold meetings to discuss their responses to the incident.

“Obviously, there are racial problems; otherwise, this incident wouldn’t have occurred,” said Anastacia Tucker, president of the Black Student Union. “This was kind of a slap in our face, after Diversity Week. We just had a whole week dedicated to diversity.”

Three percent of Quinnipiac undergraduate students are black, according to The Princeton Review.

For student leaders like Tucker, however, developing a more diverse campus is an important objective, especially in the aftermath of this most recent incident. She knows it will be a long road but is currently focusing short-term ways to improve diversity.

“Since Quinnipiac is a predominantly white school, there’s not that many minorities. I could see how there could be people with biased ideas,” said Tucker, a junior broadcast journalism major. “There are a lot of close-minded people on this campus, and they are basically ignorant. I know at school I’ve taken steps, but more has to be done. There needs to be more workshops for the students. The faculty and staff need to go through diversity training as well.”

Monique Martin, a sophomore marketing major, says diversity conferences and speakers are effective in educating students. “The whole purpose is to make yourself feel uncomfortable so you know what it feels like, and you know what’s going on, and you’re exposed to these types of things,” Martin said.

Events such as Diversity Week, which include speakers, conferences and other activities have some success, but most usually suffer from a lack of attendance. Some students believe that this lack of appreciation for events exposing different cultures shows the extent of students’ indifference.

“You see it in the diversity events on campus,” said Jennifer Ellsworth, the president of Students Helping & Advocating Diversity in Education (SHADES). “You have a huge range of events on campus. At most diversity events there are under 30 people there. yet you can get 400 people to go to Greek God and Goddess. It just makes you shrug.”

The indifference that many students show upsets Stephanie Gonzalez, president of the Latino Cultural Society.

“Sometimes I do wonder how much people are actually interested in learning about other people and being open-minded,” said Gonzalez, a senior public relations major.

In an online interview with The Chronicle, junior advertising major Monique Lee expressed her feelings.

“Some students come to QU just to avoid dealing with other cultures,” Lee said. “Quinnipiac has not really forced the issues in past years. Quinnipiac has made steps toward diversifying and educating students but it has been a slow process. I think students here are comfortable with being around people like themselves and when they’re not forced to interact with other cultures they tend to make assumptions. I can’t really speak for the students at other schools, but it seems that QU has a ‘cookie cutter’ mold of the people who go here.”

Dean of Students Manuel Carreiro believes that dealing with racial issues is not just a Quinnipiac problem, but a problem at most institutions.

“I can’t speak for other universities, but what I can say, at least according to what I know from my colleagues at other institutions is, that what we face is no different from what they face as well,” explained Carreiro. “They work just as hard as I do and my staff to take this as both a teachable moment, but also that we’re not going to tolerate it, and we’re not going to accept it as part of this community. Sometimes people think because it is our own environment – that it only happens here, but it does not.”

Black feels that at Quinnipiac the problem with certain students stems from an inabiltiy to let go of their upbringing and embrace change. “There are some students who have a sense of entitlement here,” Black said. “They don’t understand what it is to wake up in the morning, and you can’t turn diversity off. You just can’t say ‘I don’t feel diverse today.’ No. It doesn’t work that way. Some students need to understand what it means not to have money. We have some students here who can’t understand why they can’t go buy a BMW or a really nice car … some students can’t fathom the idea.”

Another pressing issue concerning students at Quinnipiac is being “singled out” not only outside of the classroom, but by professors inside the classroom.

“Just because you’re the black person in class and you come across the issue of something regarding black people, I don’t think you should directly point out that person,” Tucker said. “It is inconsiderate and putting that person on the spot. If they want to say their opinion about something like slavery, I’m sure they will raise their hand and put in their input. Don’t call them out.”

Tucker had such an experience during her freshman year when her professor made a comment to her in front of the class that she found very offensive.

“The way he said it to me, it really hurt,” Tucker said. “I was shocked. I didn’t think that when I came to college that I would experience that, and especially not from a professor.”

Tucker waited until after the school year to tell the chair of the professor’s department about it (after receiving encouragement from other professors) in fear that her grade would be affected if she said anything before the year was over.

According to students, acts of racism have been going on at Quinnipiac long before the recent incident. “There have been a lot of racial incidents that have happened on campus since I was a freshman, so it [this past incident] is not that much of a surprise,” Tucker said. “Not much has ever been done about it, but this is the first time there has actually been a mass e-mail sent out to all the students from the Dean of Students. That was good, but there needs to be more done.”

Ellsworth, from SHADES, who is also a resident assistant in Commons and is involved with the Student Diversity Board, claims that she has witnessed other racist acts but that nothing was done about those acts.

“In this building as an R.A., I have seen other things on the wall, but I was just told to wash them off, and they never got reported to security,” she said. “You just can’t wash away something like that because you’re not really dealing with the issue that is really there. [There were] swastikas all over the hallway downstairs three or four weekends this whole year.”

Carreiro responded to Ellsworth’s comments. “If something like that happens and they do not respond, that would be a great failure on our part, and I don’t think we do that because if we do, then I will be very angry that you didn’t utilize that to teach,” Carreiro said. “That’s not the way we operate here.”

Carreiro, who notified the Quinnipiac community about the racist act in an April 4 e-mail, said that he was disappointed “that people still do cowardly acts like that . it is disappointing that human beings are not more loving to each other.”

Even so, Carreiro acknowledges that racist acts have occurred on campus in the past.

“We have had incidents,” Carreiro said. “There haven’t been that many, at least from those that have come to us and have been reported to us. But I can certainly assure you that this is not the first time that we have had a similar incident.”

Black thinks that the best way to diversify the community is to start with the administration. “We need to start from the top-down,” Black said. “From our president, all the way down. We need to hold a firm line that this institution is not just inclusive but stands firm in the foundation to be global. [It] means [putting] yourself in a position where you are surrounded by everything around you that is not looking like you, sounding like you. And I want to be surrounded by people who think differently than myself.”

Black also stated that he disagrees with the decision to not notify the Hamden Police Department about the incident.

“That is a hate-crime, regardless,” Black said. “That is in a public place.”

Black was also upset that he was not notified of the event until two days after it happened.

“I think there were some points within the process of approaching this that could have been different,” Black said. “I think a lot of this is that we had a young man approached on a Saturday, and then I am finding out on Monday. From Monday on I have no problem because I know everyone had to get up to speed before the e-mail came out. But from Saturday to Monday; I have a problem. I am the director of multicultural affairs…. There needs to be a change in there somewhere.”


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