Editor’s Note: Story contains language readers may find offensive
The Black Student Union (BSU) hosted an open town hall meeting on Thursday evening to further its call for Student Association (SA) President Dillon Schade’s resignation.
Pipe Dream was prohibited from covering the meeting. According to Ruslan Klafehn, the SA Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, SA student groups are exempt New York State open meetings laws and therefore are allowed to prohibit press coverage of public meetings. However, in an email sent to student organizations — including Pipe Dream — BSU announced the intention of the meeting and requested that groups send information to their Listservs.
“The climate on this campus continues to be hostile towards minority groups, and as the President of the Student Association, Dillon sets the example for what is representative of, and acceptable from a Binghamton University student,” BSU wrote in the email. “As such, we feel it’s important that we collectively discuss a course of action to take in regards to the situation, as well as discussing prospects for candidacy for the Student Association and Congress in the 2016-2017 year.”
BSU posted a letter on its Facebook page Tuesday night, calling for a formal apology and Schade’s resignation. The request came after the discovery of a Tinder profile appearing to belong to Schade, on which the phrase “if you’re a nigga, then I’m a nigga” was written in the description.
The letter was initially supported by the Men of Color Scholastic Society, Haitian Student Association, Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program Nation and the Latin American Student Union, and it criticized the SA for a lack of response. Since the letter’s posting on Tuesday night, the Women’s Student Union and Hillel at BU publicly expressed their support as well.
“By their failure to swiftly address this action,” it reads, “we wonder what kind of language is acceptable within the Student Association itself, and whether they are capable of representing the students of color at this University.”
Schade issued a statement to the campus community on Wednesday. He stated that the profile was edited without his knowledge, and that he was unaware of the derogatory language. He said it was not reflective of his own values, and that while he looks to identify whoever is responsible, a larger issue must be addressed.
“Racial inequality has been a recurring problem on our campus, but it is not unique to our campus, not unique to SUNY, and not unique to higher education,” he wrote. “We can, and must, do more. This university must be a place where all students feel safe regardless of their identity.”
Assistant Dean for Off-Campus Services Milton Chester said he understands students are upset over the issue, but does not believe that Schade is responsible for the Tinder profile message.
“The person that I have come to know is not consistent with that type of language,” Chester said. “Dillon is saying that he didn’t do that. He didn’t put that there. In my opinion, given what we know about Dillon and his character and who he is and what he’s done, he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this.”
BU President Harvey Stenger said that the University is examining the issue, and asked anybody with relevant information to reach out.
“I am calling on the Student Association (SA) and our Dean of Students Office to conduct a full and thorough investigation regarding unacceptable language that has come to light involving racist remarks made on a social media account owned by the SA President,” Stenger said. “The University offers its assistance to ensure that the SA swiftly addresses this issue. I encourage anyone who has information about this social media post to contact me directly, or to contact one of the following offices: the University Ombudsman, the Dean of Students, the Human Resources Office, the Office of Student Conduct or the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Valerie Hampton, BU’s chief diversity officer, said the situation is unfortunate. According to her, the true issue at hand is the general usage of derogatory speech on campus.
“The language that we’re still using to describe other human beings in pejorative ways is offensive and unacceptable in any form,” Hampton said. “It is not funny to joke about. It is not funny to think that saying something negative about a person’s identity in any way is acceptable.”
Schade, a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering, also issued a statement on his personal Facebook page, where he apologized for the profile.
“I sincerely apologize for anyone that was insulted by the language used in the description,” Schade said. “I want to break a few rumors out there. The main profile was mine, but the profile was altered by someone unknown and I am currently pursuing for a confession from whoever did it. The language used does not describe my demeanor, competency, and is unacceptable for any standard.”