Editorial: Addressing Bias Crimes on Campus

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Editorial: Addressing Bias Crimes on Campus

A racially charged slur was written on a student's door in Martyr's Court.

A racially charged slur was written on a student's door in Martyr's Court.

A racially charged slur was written on a student's door in Martyr's Court.

A racially charged slur was written on a student's door in Martyr's Court.

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On Sunday, an African-American student returned to his residence in LaLande Hall to find that a racial slur had been scratched into his door, according to an email from Public Safety.

“The room’s residents had not been present for most of the day, and it is unclear when the door was defaced,” Public Safety reported. The incident required the attention of Residential Life and mandated an investigation by the New York Police Department.

News 12 Bronx, a local news station, reported on the issue and many students took to social media to voice criticism. A speak out was held outside the McGinley Center, and ASILI, the Black Student Alliance on campus, held an open-dialogue on race in direct response on Tuesday night.

In a Facebook post, the group expressed solidarity with the victim, writing: “For anyone at either Fordham campus who ever feels victimized because of their race, we offer ourselves to you as a place of support, comfort, and healing.” The post continued: “To the students of Fordham, we urge you to understand the severity of what has truly happened and to understand that to remain silent on this matter is to insinuate this behavior is acceptable despite going against the Jesuit tenants we so stand for here.”

Fordham Public Safety, in its university-wide email, also commented on the incident, which is being investigated as a bias crime.

“It goes without saying that such behavior is antithetical to the values of Jesuit education. Such slurs injure not only their intended targets, but the entire Fordham community,” stated the email. “If the person who committed the act is identified, he or she will face University disciplinary proceedings in addition to whatever criminal charges are filed.”

There are rarely bias crimes on campus, but there is a recent precedent. In 2012, The Fordham Ram broke the story that a Resident Assistant found a racial slur on her door, sparking claims that the university tried to hide the incident.

“Not all students were aware of the incident, because the facilities staff removed the offensive graffiti immediately and school officials did not inform the student body about what happened,” stated the article. Student outcry ensued, citing Fordham’s silence as “unacceptable and offensive,” according to one student quoted in The Fordham Ram.

The response by Public Safety, student groups, the police and others on campus has suggested a departure from any alleged neglect.

While the student who decided to do this was just as wrong as the student in 2012 was, administrators of Fordham acted in a responsible manner, moving toward transparency and even editorializing in its Public Safety notification. Student groups, including ASILI, have mobilized to encourage forward-thinking discussion rather than blame administrators.

In some ways, much has happened since the incident in 2012. The rise of Black Lives Matter following the outcry over incidents of police brutality in Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, and other cities have brought a great deal of media coverage to the issues surrounding race in America. As more black voices have emerged into the mainstream media, the discussion has certainly changed and become more nuanced in discussing race relations. Institutions, including colleges and universities, have become more aggressive in responding to similar issues as well.

If anything has emerged from this most recent incident, it is that silence is not a solution. Rather, openness and dialogue is necessary and students must outwardly address issues of insensitivity on campus.

It was, for this reason, in the best interest of students that Public Safety commented on Fordham’s values following this incident. It is in the best interest of students and student clubs (especially multicultural groups) to lend a voice, and it is in the best interest of the community that there is an open dialogue to confront this issue, rather than cower from discussion.

When The Fordham Ram reported the 2012 incident, students were shocked that the incident occurred, and that Fordham neglected to address it. Now, the shock lies in that a hateful member of our community would stoop to such a low level, and that an innocent member of our community now has to go on with his or her freshman year with this incident in the back of his or her mind.

As Public Safety noted, it goes without saying that this behavior is entirely antithetical to the values of Jesuit education. It also goes without saying that students must respond swiftly and with great authority in discussing how to move forward as a campus.