Campus shaken by ‘hateful’ words

By on October 17, 2007

In response to the second act of racial vandalism to hit campus this semester, Tyrone Black, the university’s director of Multicultural Affairs, called for Quinnipiac University students to take a stand against racism.

“I just think that at this time we have a student body that is split,” Black said. “There are some people who care, who want to see things done and are willing to make sure things get done. Then you have another group of people who don’t know how painful this actually is.”

On Thursday afternoon in an e-mail sent to the entire university community, Kathleen McCourt, senior vice president for academic and student affairs, reported that a female student discovered a racial slur written on her dorm room door and on two other doors in the same hall.

“This is the same hateful word that was found on the board outside a student’s door last month,” McCourt said in the memo.

A confidential source told The Chronicle that the slur in question is the “n-word.”

McCourt’s e-mail also explained that the Hamden Police Department had been contacted and had started an investigation.

Black said the student body must step up and take a stand against racism and other forms of bigotry. One way to do this, he said, is for anyone who might know who is responsible for the vandalism to come forward.

“If we’re allowing their identity to remain anonymous, we are making a statement, as a community, that it is okay, and we will continue to accept this behavior,” Black said. “And it’s unacceptable.”

Although last week’s incident is not the first of its kind, Black said he does not believe the multiple acts of vandalism that have occurred throughout the course of the semester are linked.

“They’re isolated,” Black said. “They’re isolated [among] people of the same mentality.”

While he was disturbed by the incident, Zachary Andersen, a Commons resident, said that getting the police involved was the appropriate course of action.

“I find it kind of upsetting that someone would do that,” he said. “I think it was smart to call the police. Leave the police to do it, I guess.”

Black said that ignorance and bigotry are more widespread problems than most people believe, and that racism is an issue that faces the campus as a whole. The students and administration, he said, must come together in addressing it.

“There’s no way in the world that on this campus of about 8,000 people, that there are only three people who think that way,” Black said. “I think it’s a smaller number of malicious, vengeful, vindictive people. But I think it’s a larger number of ignorant people.”

Diversity education, Black said, is important especially because racial issues stretch beyond the boundaries of Quinnipiac University.

“There are some people that just don’t understand that this is going to continue,” Black said. “It’s life. It’s life for those of us who don’t look the same, who don’t look like everybody else. We can’t just brush it off.”

“It appears to me that every student, and faculty, and administrator of color loves this school, but every day it becomes increasingly difficult to be that person of color here,” he added.

Students living in Commons condemned the acts of racist vandalism.

“Our school’s trying to get more diverse, and doing that is not going to help,” said Thomas Butto, a Commons resident. “It’s just going to get the school a bad reputation. I don’t know why someone feels the need to write something like that.”

Another Commons resident, Bryan Gee, agreed.

“I think it’s really just despicable because a lot of people see Quinnipiac as racist,” Gee said. “And it offends me.”

Butto does not believe the incident reflects the attitudes of the student body as a whole.

“I don’t think that the majority of students feel like this,” he said.

Black said he has found that students are divided over the issue of racial sensitivity.

“I asked my QU 101 classes, ‘What’s the difference between a person who uses a racial slur, and a racist, are they the same?'” Black said. “And I ask that question and every time the classrooms are split. That means that you actually have people on this campus who are ignorant enough to think that it’s fun and funny.”

Black added, “We want this community to make a decision. Right now we’re straddling the fence.”

Victoria Lucas, the chairperson of the Student Diversity Board (SDB), also commented.

“It’s not something you want to see happen in your community,” she said. “It’s not something you want to see happen at Quinnipiac. And nobody should have to go through that.”

Black believes that while the campus is doing all that they can to inform the student body and respond, there is only so much that they can do without knowing the identity of the perpetrator.

“There have been some different changes made in the response,” Black said. “The person responding this time was the senior vice president for academic and student affairs. I heard it was a lot stronger, and it gave more information for the students, for the people of this community to know that this is what’s happening and this is how we’re handling it.”

Black continued, “The problem is that it’s very difficult to find people when people who know don’t say anything. I would say that the administration has done what I think they can do from this perspective, from this angle.”

Educating the community, Black said, is essential for ensuring that these incidents cease to occur.

“We can do one of two things,” he said. “We stop the process of what we’re trying to accomplish, which is educating people, and continue to spend a lot of our energy to find this individual. Or, we continue to focus on doing what we’re doing, in hopes that somebody, through us talking and through our actions of whatever we’re planning on doing, to get them to say, ‘it’s my duty and my responsibility to make sure that whoever has done this, knows that I don’t agree with it’.”

When The Chronicle went to press on Monday night, SDB had scheduled a meeting for Tuesday in Alumni Hall. Lucas had urged members of the student body to attend the event.

In the event Lucas was hoping to not only address race, but also religion, sexual orientation and issues relating to the disabled as well.

“We’re looking at four different aspects of diversity,” Lucas said. “We’re trying to push this idea of diversity being more than just black and white.”

The event, she said, is for the purpose of “educating ourselves so that we can educate the campus.”

The Chronicle did not hear back from the Hamden Police Department for comment by press time.


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