Recent Racist Act at Trinity Provokes Campus-wide Response
Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 17:04
This past Friday, April 22 at 2:50 a.m., a white male threw a cup of beer at a student of color's vehicle and yelled racially charged statements to that same person, according to a campus-wide e-mail sent by Dean of Students Frederick Alford. This incident, the most recent of a string of race-based bigotry on campus, occurred in the Hansen parking lot. According to the victim, two female students witnessed the attack but have yet to come forward. The perpetrator is described as a 6'1" white male dressed in khaki pants, a white and blue shirt, and a blue baseball cap. The victim also plans to file a report with the Hartford Police Department.
Currently, the College is investigating the incident and have "already conducted an audit on the locks leading into the building." According to Alford this audit lead to "information we hope will allow us to identify the culprit and hold him accountable through the College judicial process." Alford is also asking for the witnesses to come forward, as their information could be crucial to the investigation.
Shedding light on discrimination's destructive force, Alford stated "Hopefully this person who committed these offenses will be brought to justice, but racism, homophobia and misogyny will continue until everyone is prepared to speak up when they witness bigotry in any of its many forms. We cannot have an excellent College if we permit valued members of the community to be made unwelcome."
On Monday morning, President James F. Jones, Jr. e-mailed a school-wide letter stating his disbelief and disappointment at the number of racist verbal, physical, and emotional attacks this semester. Giving background into his own life, Jones used his past to enforce the need for tolerance. "I grew up in the segregated South. After our father's death in 1951, the person who saved me and my late kid brother from the slings and arrows of unkind Fates was a black woman who always called Jeff and me her "two white sons." Mrs. Trice taught us two of life's most important lessons: first, that what mattered was never the color of a person's skin but rather always the quality of a person's character; and second, as she told us myriad times, love is the only thing more powerful and more lasting than death," Jones said.
Jones believes we are now seeing a regression back to a more bigoted time. "That regressive attitudes based on race, sex, or sexual identity persist more than forty years later at Trinity leaves me confused and dismayed," said Jones. Likewise, he noted that one act of bigotry and discrimination "lessens" the entire College.
Although Jones could not elaborate on the ongoing investigation he did say that "when Dean Alford's investigations are concluded, we will report officially to the College community. I ask the Campus Climate Advisory Committee to continue with heightened urgency discussing ways in which we can be a more tolerant and more caring community. Specifically, I ask the Committee to review those recommendations that have been brought forward by the several entities that have in the past studied Trinity's prevailing ethos and ways in which that ethos might be more inclusive and tolerant."
Jones also asked the Faculty to discuss the history of bigotry, racism, and discrimination in their classes. "The faculty hold as their primary responsibility the state of the curriculum. I therefore urge the various faculty committees to review our present curricular offerings to make certain that the members of the student body understand how vitally important it is that they study both the history of bigotry in its myriad forms and the consequences to any societal entity of discrimination of any kind."
The Faculty has responded in a letter written by a small group of professors who wanted to begin a process of getting more involved in racial issues on campus. As of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25, 152 faculty members have signed the letter.
One of the letter's authors Professor of Philospohy Maureice Wade sent a copy of the letter to the Tripod. It reads:
Perhaps you are not aware that many students of color are deeply distressed and intensely angry about this latest racist incident. They do not believe that these are isolated incidents of bad behavior that indicate nothing broader or deeper about the College. What they now say to us, and have said over the years, is that these incidents are simply the public face of an atmosphere of insult and denigration that they must deal with as they live and work on our campus day in and day out. Their experience is that racial bigotry and racism are pervasive. They want their experiences on this campus to be acknowledged and taken seriously.
Such sentiments are shared by many women on campus and by many gay and lesbian students on campus, who feel that acts of sexual violence, misogyny and homophobia/heterosexism are routinely dismissed. A culture of sadism is allowed to proceed as if it were the rites of passage for some students. These too often forgiven students are the Subjects, who are allowed to objectify others. This must not be permitted.
While our student of color and others are certainly pleased to know that the perpetrators of these racist incidents are punished when they are known, our sense is that they feel that such punishment addresses symptoms and not causes and constitutes failure of the College to confront openly and publicly the prospect, that is very real for them, that some sort of sickness pervades our student culture. When they say, to us and to others, that the College does not take these matters seriously, we believe that this is what they mean and we do not doubt their sincerity. And if we do not take the wider questions of social sadism (misogyny and homophobia) seriously, it is unlikely that we are addressing the core problems.