As Slurs and Offenses Multiply, Colleges Scramble to Respond

from THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION:

September 9, 2013

As Slurs and Offenses Multiply, Colleges Scramble to Respond

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The Etownian

Diane Elliott, director of diversity at Elizabethtown College, spoke at a campus forum on intolerance in April.

By Casey McDermott

On a whiteboard on Stephen Boyhont’s dorm-room door at Elizabethtown College, somebody scrawled “fag.” At the University of Texas at Austin, Taylor Carr was the target of racial slurs and balloons that appeared to be full of bleach. Danny Valdes encountered what he describes as “intense transphobia” at Dartmouth College, both on campus and online.

Reports of such incidents arise each semester at colleges around the country: Somebody discovers discriminatory graffiti or vandalism of a cultural center. An organization advertises a theme party that caricatures a particular race or ethnicity. Walking across the quad, or on Twitter, a student utters an offensive remark to another.

Students who have been the targets of such incidents and administrators alike say they know better than to expect utopian campuses, free from hostilities that persist elsewhere. Still, colleges face heightened expectations for civility and tolerance. Generally, their approach is to listen to affected students, conduct some investigation, sanction those responsible, and promote respect across the campus.

Responding effectively can be a challenge. With groups of students and professors reeling, administrators must try to condemn bias without infringing on free speech. Even an isolated incident on a relatively unknown campus can quickly gain national attention.

Except in clear-cut cases, such as when an incident is criminal, there is no ready response, says Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. Often, she says, “campuses don’t know what to do.”

Presidents have sent strongly worded campuswide e-mails, denouncing intolerance. Some colleges have canceled classes for a day of reflection, as Dartmouth did in April. Other campus leaders have formed task forces to review policies and recommend curricular changes.

The impact of such actions is difficult to gauge. And, of course, the student population is constantly turning over. Seniors who witnessed an incident and its aftermath graduate; freshmen arrive with varying levels of experience with peers from different backgrounds, says Ms. Hurtado, who has studied diversity and campus climate.

“We expect them all to know how to work with each other and get along, and there are all kinds of missteps,” she says. “Once you get a diverse student body, the problems don’t go away.”

Campuswide Challenge

At Elizabethtown, Mr. Boyhont discovered the slur on his door in February. He wasn’t the only one: The small liberal-arts college in central Pennsylvania received 21 reports of bias-related incidents last semester. Messages promoting white supremacy were also found in dorms, and the baseball team had reportedly held a “gay drinking day,” where partiers supposedly dressed and acted in ways they considered “gay,” like drinking fruity drinks.

As reports stacked up, the college sent 11 campuswide e-mails, decrying the incidents and asking for information. It also stepped up security in some dorms, ran educational programs through residence life, and held two forums and five “luncheon dialogues,” among other measures.

Prompt communication and action were key, and so was a multifaceted approach, says Marianne Calenda, dean of students. “It’s a communitywide challenge,” she says. “The whole community needs to be committed to making the changes and improving the quality of the experience here.”

Last month the college brought in the Anti-Defamation League to train faculty and staff with a program called “A Campus of Difference,” which the group has offered on approximately 900 campuses. Another session at Elizabethtown is planned for October. For incoming students, a theater company was scheduled to conduct an interactive workshop on diversity.

Elizabethtown also started offering an LGBTQ living-learning community this year, and it is exploring gender-neutral housing. In January, the college plans to hold a diversity conference.

On many campuses, orientation programs are infused with discussions of diversity and respect. At UT-Austin, as part of the longstanding Real Talk program—geared toward minority and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgerder students, but open to anyone—some upperclassmen have shared personal experiences with bias. Dartmouth explores such issues through its mandatory, yearlong First-Year Residential Experience. Elsewhere, training is online: Last year the University of Cincinnati introduced a tutorial on sexual and racial harassment, including hypothetical scenarios.

Interventions are important as preventive measures, but also after an incident occurs, campus officials say. At Dartmouth, when a fraternity and a sorority held a “Bloods and Crips” party in July, playing up gang stereotypes, organizers were asked to attend a meeting with student members of the NAACP and staff from the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, to discuss why the party was offensive. The campus’s Greek Leadership Council is now considering guidelines for themed events.

To coordinate efforts after an incident, bias response teams have become increasingly common. Models vary—the University of Oregon, Ohio State University, and Lehigh University each advertise some kind of team—but many collect reports online. Some teams provide mediation services, or let students know how to report an incident to local authorities. The teams also often collect data on the prevalence of bias incidents.

Gauging Impact

Students who report incidents, however, sometimes find their colleges’ responses inadequate.

Last spring at Dartmouth, protesters expressed frustration with racism, homophobia, and the handling of sexual assault on campus. Feeling that many reports had been brushed off, Mr. Valdes characterizes the college as “silent and inactive” on bias. “You can’t have respect,” he says, “if the people who do harm to someone else aren’t held accountable.”

Mr. Boyhont, at Elizabethtown, also expected more—details of incidents from administrators, he says, and punishment for the baseball team’s “gay drinking day.” But over all, he has felt supported by his college. It quickly found him emergency housing, he says, when a former roommate made homophobic comments. And after he wrote a letter to the editor of the campus newspaper about the drinking event, the dean invited him to meet with the athletic director and the baseball coach.

Beyond students’ satisfaction, what signals progress for a college? Fewer reports might be reassuring, but more of them could signal students’ comfort in coming forward.

It’s hard for a college to see the whole picture, says Ms. Hurtado, in part because many incidents go unreported. Only a tenth of students who experience bias go to a campus authority, she estimates.

Regular climate assessments can be powerful tools for understanding, Ms. Hurtado says. Her institute at UCLA, for example, runs a Diverse Learning Environments Survey of students’ experiences and attitudes. But surveys do not provide a full solution, she says. To improve a campus climate, she recommends curricular measures, such as diversity requirements.

If society at large hasn’t figured out how to eradicate racism, homophobia, and other biases, some administrators say, it may be unrealistic for a campus to see such incidents disappear entirely.

But for their part, Mr. Boyhont, Ms. Carr, and Mr. Valdes all think colleges should keep trying.

Elizabethtown College Responds to Bias Complaints

The spring semester was a tumultuous one at Elizabethtown College, a small liberal-arts institution in central Pennsylvania. In response to 21 bias-related incidents reported there—including vandalism, slurs on message boards, and offensive remarks to students—campus officials took a multifaceted approach that included the following:

February 4, 2013

A day after racial slurs appeared on message boards in dormitories, Elizabethtown officials issue a campuswide e-mail “condemning acts of hate” and asking the community for information. It was the first of what would be 11 similar messages. The college also increases security in some dorms, a step it would take again after further incidents.

February 10, 2013

President Carl J. Strikwerda and student leaders hold the first of two forums to discuss the incidents, concerns about campus climate, and suggestions for change.

February 27, 2013

The college offers the first of several diversity-oriented educational programs through residence life, including information on how to identify and report incidents of bias.

March 11, 2013

Campus officials begin consulting with people at other colleges that have experienced such incidents, as well as outside experts.

March 20, 2013

In response to homophobic incidents, the college convenes a “listening session” with LGBTQ students, allies, faculty, and staff.

March 26, 2013

The campus holds the first of five diversity luncheons discussing, for example, immigration and LGBTQ issues in Pennsylvania.

April 5, 2013

A candlelight vigil organized by a student displays support for those who have been the targets of bias incidents throughout the semester.

May 14, 2013

Campus Diversity Advocates, an existing group of student, faculty, and staff volunteers who help report bias and support those affected, undergoes training sessions.

August 7, 2013

Faculty and staff participate in diversity training with representatives from the Anti-Defamation League. The college has scheduled another session for October to accommodate interest.

August 21, 2013

Elizabethtown revises its student handbook to clarify related policies. The college also opens a new living-learning community for LGBTQ students.

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Angela Davis Looks Back at the 16th Street Church Bombings 50 Years Ago

From hiphopandpolitics.com:

September 14, 2013 by

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Davey D speaks with activist, scholar and freedom fighter Angela Davis about the 50th anniversary  of the 16th street Birmingham bombings of 1963.

Angela grew up in Birmingham when it was called Bombingham. This was due to the fact the Ku Klux Klan conducted a campaign of terror on Black people and frequently firebombed people’s homes. The gravity of that of that terrorism has not been fully appreciated or understood. Leading up to the 16th street church bombings, there are estimates that close to 80 bombs were set off in Birmingham.

Davis said Black people were under seige but were determined to fight back. The 16th Street Baptist Church had become a symbol of Black Resistance and was a key organizing center for the Civil Rights Movement. After the huge and very successful March on Washington a few weeks earlier, the historic church became even more of thorn in the side for white supremacists and was eventually targeted with fatal results.

On the morning of September 15th 1963, a bomb was placed in the basement of the church. 4 young girls, Denise McNair, who was 11 along with Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley who were all 14, were killed when that bomb went off. Davis who was friends with two of the girls Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson who she noted lived two houses down from hers.

In fact the day of the bombing Angela’s mother drove Carole’s mother to the church to pick up her daughter. They had heard about the church being bombed, but sadly didn’t know Carole was one of those killed.

Davis talked at length during our Hard Knock Radio show about how and why this incident was a key turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. It was a wake up call that moved everyone to get more involved.

Davis also noted that on that day two other Black teens, both boys Virgil Ware and Johnny Robertson were also killed. One by the Klan sympathizers and the other by police who sadly had a working relationship with the KKK.

She also noted that there was a rebellion , the largest of its kind in Birmingham, which has been erased from the history books. She also noted that because of all the bombings, her father and numerous other men in the community began patrolling their neighborhoods armed with guns.. That helped turn the tide on bombings in her neighborhood which was known as Dynamite Hill, but sadly it didn’t prevent the bombing of the 16th street Baptist church…

During our conversation, Davis made it clear that it was important to connect the struggles of 1963 and the tragedies of that day with the struggles and resistance to racial violence going on today. She drew parallels to the case of Oscar Grant and how that a key turning point for many in the Bay Area and how other cases including the one involving Trayvon martin were also key turning point incidents.

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We also talked about how the 16th Street Baptist Church has in recent years been used as a staging area for protest in the fight to end discrimintaion agaisnt undocumented Latinos who now live in Birmingham. Last year thousands gathered at the church to protest an anti-immigrant SB 1070 type law known in Alabama as HB56. A strong coalition of Black and Brown leaders came together to show unity. Davis talked about the importance of connecting those dots between the Civil Rights struggle of the past with the current fight around immigration.

We concluded our interview with Angela Davis by talking about the plight of political prisoner Herman Wallace who was given 2 months to live and is one of the Angola 3. We also talked about the legacy of Attica and the huge uprisings that took place 41 years ago this week.

Below is our interview with Angela Davis. Also if you are in the Bay Area Angela Davis along with fellow Birmingham resident and Civil Rights attorney Margret Burnham will be speaking at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St in Oakland from 5-7:30pm

Later in the HKR show we hear a commentary from political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal speaks about death row inmate James “Shorty” Dennis

Culture Brief, no.1, Fall 2013, “The Gullah Art Form of Basketweaving”

The Purdue Black Cultural Center is launching a new electronic publication – Culture Briefs.  The Culture Briefs are intended to educate the Purdue community on a variety of topics related to the African American experience.  This fall, the Culture Briefs will be directly tied to the BCC fall semester theme “Gullah Folklore:  (Re)membering Our Pathways Through Low Country Legacies”.   The Briefs feature researched content while providing a quick overview of a highlighted aspect of Gullah culture.  It is our hope that the Culture Briefs will serve to expand the knowledge of the reader and provide deeper insight into prevalent themes in African American culture.

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Antonio Zamora Jazz Jubilee

Coming up this Friday (Sept. 7th)!!!
The BCC presents the Antonio Zamora Jazz Jubilee!!!
We will be celebrating an Jazz as art form and cultural expression & a person who was vital to the BCC’s success.

The BCC was built by Mr. Zamora and the many great artists, poets, choreographers, vocalists, historians, politicians, visual artists and so forth and so on, that visited the campus and built relationships with the students and staff.

If you don’t know much about jazz. Please allow the BCC to introduce you to the most popular jazz musicians of all times, John Coltrane and his studio recording of 1964 titled A Love Supreme.

Think of Antonio Zamora and bring the energy of this piece with you to the Antonio Zamora Jazz Jubilee at the Black Cultural Center, Saturday, September 7th – 3 to 6 pm.  Most importantly, look for A Love Supreme as it resides inside of you.

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