On Wednesday evening, Black Student Alliance members and other students met with Sally Walker, vice president of student affairs, and President Mauri Ditzler in the James Welton house to discuss a series of hate speech violations on campus.
“I am overly enthused and appreciative of everyone who came tonight […] even if you don’t say anything, your presence says something and is doing something,” said Detroit senior Langston Brannon-Pugh, president of the Black Student Alliance.
Students were concerned with the administration’s methods of disciplining students who violate hate speech codes in the Student Handbook. The handbook states there is a “zero-tolerance” policy for hate speech. The current system has been unsatisfactory to students who have reported hate speech incidents to Campus Safety.
“This situation with the ‘n’ word is just an extension of situations in the past that we have ignored. This college has a rich history of recruiting underrepresented students and not giving them a safe space to be themselves […] if something happens like that, we have no one to report it to … if diversity is truly our ethos, we should have a system of accountability in place,” said Brannon-Pugh.
There were complaints regarding the way Campus Safety has been handling hate speech cases over the course of several years. Several students suggested that there should be a better reporting system in place that will handle reports more quickly and efficiently.
“…. What I am sure of is that there is a robust and full investigation underway….so that case is not closed in any way,” said Walker.
There was a general concern that students will repeat slurs because there is no disciplinary action being taken to stop them. It was agreed on by the administration and students that diversity training amongst FYE mentors, professors and counseling services was an important factor in fixing the disconnect on campus.
“I don’t think the college is happy or satisfied and I am sorry. It doesn’t help that I am sorry, but I am sorry. I’m sorry it happened five years ago, I’m sorry it happened four years ago and I am sorry it happened last week. And so asking the question, ‘What are we going to do moving forward?’ is a great question,” said Ditzler.
The meeting concluded with Ditzler promising to host a monthly dinner session with the Black Student Alliance executive board to discuss further planning to improve the cultural climate on our campus. Ditzler committed to appoint someone to represent diversity and inclusion in his advisory committee. To this possibility Brannon-Pugh responded, “I would hug you so hard.”