The Binghamton University X-Fact’r Step Team met with representatives of the BU Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) on Thursday to solicit the office’s support in the wake of an incident of racial harassment that occurred in the city of Binghamton on March 7.
Several dozen students gathered outside the ODEI in support of X-Fact’r as they met with Chief Diversity Officer Valerie Hampton.
Members of the team claim that they were the victims of racially-charged taunts and threats as they practiced on a street near one of its members’ homes on the city of Binghamton’s West Side.
X-Fact’r’s secretary, Epiphany Munoz, a senior double-majoring in sociology and Africana studies, wrote a detailed description of the incident, which was forwarded to the Listservs of several progressive and multicultural organizations on campus.
“He told us he would ‘hang us from the trees in his backyard’, ‘put us in our graves’, that we were ‘dirty niggers’ and that he was the biggest racist out here, to check his rep,” Munoz wrote in the statement.
The statement goes on to detail a dismissive response from the Binghamton Police Department (BPD), which, according to Munoz, left the scene as members tried to explain to them what happened. The email encouraged supporters to sit outside while X-Fact’r met with Hampton to ask for her office’s support in taking their case to Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski’s office.
Munoz wrote that X-Fact’r is seeking three things from the BU administration: a public condemnation of the incident, an answer as to why no one at the Multicultural Resource Center, ODEI, Dean of Students office or President’s office had reached out to X-Fact’r regarding the incident and a call for BPD to further investigate the incident.
As the meeting went on inside the ODEI, students outside engaged in a dialogue about racial issues at Binghamton University.
“This is not a protest; this is a show of solidarity for what happened to X-Fact’r,” said Toivo Asheeke, a fifth-year graduate student studying sociology who accompanied X-Fact’r in its meeting with Hampton.
Many students commented on similar incidents that have occurred over the last few years. Topics of conversation included ways to increase safety in Downtown Binghamton, methods of organizing students of color in the future and how the University can help solve these problems.
“This incident is emblematic of a bigger social issue,” said Ian Farmer, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “We speak as if racial issues and white supremacy only affect black people, but they hurt everyone.”
At the end of the meeting, the team announced that it was satisfied with the results of the meeting, but that this was just a first step.
“Valerie has agreed to publicly support an investigation and to publicly condemn what happened,” Asheeke said after the meeting.
On Sunday, another message was sent out claiming that Stenger would not meet with X-Fact’r until after the investigation has concluded.
“After receiving the ODEI’s support for future actions, X-Fact’r reached out to President Harvey Stenger, asking for the administration’s support, validation, and advice,” the email read. “Stenger had one of his staff members respond, and refused to meet with X-Fact’r until an investigation is carried out.”
The email also detailed plans for a protest on Monday at 1 p.m. that will march from the Pegasus Statue to the Couper Administration Building, where protesters plan to sit in solidarity until the administration publicly condemns the incident, supports a further investigation and demands a reprimand of the officers involved.
Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at Binghamton University, told Pipe Dream that Stenger would be willing to meet with students to discuss this issue.
“President Stenger is happy to speak with students addressing their concerns,” Yarosh wrote in an email.
The team said it would be meeting with a representative of BPD on Tuesday afternoon.
More than a half hour into the meeting, two uniformed officers from Binghamton’s New York State University Police Department appeared in the hallway. They said they had received a noise complaint from someone in a surrounding office who also said that students were blocking the hallway. The officers did not ask the crowd to leave and left the hallway after assessing the situation.
“If these were white students, you wouldn’t be here,” said Michael West, a professor of sociology, to the two officers as they left.
On Friday, March 31, Binghamton University sent out a message to the campus community in a B-Line news addition.
“Binghamton University strongly denounces all incidents of harassment, intimidation and racism and remains steadfast in its commitment to being a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus,” the message reads.
The message did not address the incident directly.