Incident of Racism on Campus

Published 1 year ago -

By Maggie Buckley, Editor-in-Chief

UPDATE: The student whose account contained the caption has requested their last name be removed from this article, so they will now be referred to as Emily M.

On Monday, September 6, Emily M., a junior, posted a picture on her Instagram in which she and another individual sported a Trump flag. However, the image itself is not why this post garnered so much attention.

Emily M. captioned the image “#webacKKK” with the three K’s potentially referencing the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremist hate group. This group is notorious for perpetuating obscene violence against black people, most especially through lynchings.

“I could care less about politics,” said Larry Mounds Jr., a senior at Assumption who is black.

“It’s just–why the hell would you post that? Three K’s.”

Victoria Richardson, a first-year student, is biracial. She shared her thoughts in response to the post.

“The fact that the KKK was in the post and so many people liked it is shocking, but at the same time, I was not surprised because there is an ignorance that swarms around the use of the KKK.

“The KKK is a threat to me, a threat to who I am as a person, and a threat to my own life.”

Word of the hateful content spread quickly around campus, with some students, Mounds Jr. included, sharing the now infamous post on their social media accounts.

“I felt like it was a necessity for me to raise awareness or… let it be known this racism or just inappropriate behavior is real and this shit happens at Assumption.

“It made me feel disappointed and disgusted.”

“I was and I am still frightened,” said Richardson. “I felt a pain in my chest because I honestly did not feel safe walking or being on campus.”

The magnitude of the situation was heightened later that night, when individuals stormed the residence area where Emily M. was known to live.

Campus Police were quick to arrive on the scene in order to ensure the safety of Emily M. and her roommates. A Valley resident reported that while people were gathering outside of her building to send a message, no one became aggressive.

“People were really irritated by [the post] and really offended by it, as they should be.”

This instantaneous backlash prompted Emily M. to delete the post, issue an apology, and then delete her account all in the same night.

The next day, the University’s president, Francesco Cesaero, was prompted to issue a response to the racist post.

He noted that “the University condemns all forms of racism, whether intentional or unintentional” and that the Assumption community “need[s] to be vigilant on calling out any form of racism, whether posted on social media or communicated in any other fashion.”

These points were followed by the Assumption University Statement on Diversity and the promise that this incident will be handled swiftly and effectively.

Conway Campbell, the Vice President of Student Success on campus, noted that he was disappointed to see this post surface.

“I was deeply saddened,” he said. “I work very closely with our Cross-Cultural Center and our students of color and I heard from them and their reaction[s] and the hurt that it caused and that was difficult.”

However, as Campbell made himself available to students who needed support during this time, also heard from many other students, not just those of color, who raised concern about this issue, which was “very heartening.”

The question that permeated most of his conversations with students concerned how Assumption would go on to handle this issue.

How, then, might this issue be handled?

According to the Student Handbook, “the University has developed procedures to respond to incidents of harassment, whatever the basis or circumstance.”

Deb Cady Melzer, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, noted that while she could not comment on the specifics of this case, she could disclose the process that incidents like these typically undergo.

“The Director of Community Standards, Hillary George, often in consultation with me, determines how a case is heard. Student conduct that needs to be addressed can either be heard by an administrator or a hearing board. University hearing boards consist of a faculty member, staff member and possibly a student depending on the type of case who are trained and the chair is typically Hillary as the Director of Community Standards.”

Cady Melzer also noted that potential consequences for hateful or racist speech are “points, community restitution, educational programming, educational meetings with members of our community, loss of housing, suspension or expulsion from the University.”

However, the disciplinary action taken with regards to this incident in particular still remains unclear. Emily M. is known to have left campus, but students are left wondering if this was of her own doing, or if it was the result of administrative action.

We reached out to Emily M. in order to gain perspective on the events that have transpired, but she did not respond to requests for comment.

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