On Thursday morning, a student discovered that a racist picture had been drawn in a fifth-floor study lounge in Endicott Hall of Newing College. The drawings featured racist depictions of black people, including racial slurs and allusions to slavery.
While the pictures were erased after the incident was reported to Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD), a resident of Endicott Hall took a photo of the drawings, which then began to circulate via social media. A town hall meeting to be held later that night was then announced, hosted by Josh Gonzalez, the Student Association (SA) vice president for multicultural affairs and a senior majoring in geography.
The Binghamton University administration sent out a B-Line news addition just after 5 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. The addition said the incident was reported at 8:45 a.m. and investigated by UPD, who spoke with the two individuals who admitted to drawing the graffiti. According to the individuals, the drawings were meant to be a “social experiment.”
At 7:30 p.m., less than 12 hours since the incident had been reported, Gonzalez, along with Raul Cepin, the SA vice president for academic affairs and a senior majoring in Latin American and Caribbean Area studies, held a town hall in Room UU-120 of the University Union.
Gonzalez said that many students and alumni reached out to him about the incident, and this led him to organize a town hall. Cepin said that it was important to have a town hall in order to facilitate a discussion about racial discrimination at the school that the administration has been reluctant to start.
“It’s important for the University to be very serious about instances of racial discrimination, specifically when they’re anti-black, because the University can often respond to different instances of discrimination,” Cepin said.
The room was packed with students voicing their concern about their safety on campus, as well as what action should be taken as a response and how the administration should handle the incident. The town hall began with Gonzalez and Cepin emphasizing that the meeting was meant to be a safe space for students, and encouraging the crowd to listen respectively to others’ opinions.
Members of BU’s faculty and staff were present including Jazell Johnson, the associate director of Student Conduct and program coordinator of the Student Conflict and Dispute Management Program, who said that depending on what the police report says, the office could begin its own investigation if the students responsible are found to have violated the Code of Student Conduct.
Another staff member present was Valerie Hampton, the chief diversity officer for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who said there were a number of resources available that students can access if they feel unsafe, including her office.
There was a general consensus among attendees that the administration didn’t take the incident seriously enough; students specifically criticized language used in the news addition that stated the drawings were “characterized as racist” instead of racist.
Other topics of discussion included the lack of training resident assistants undergo when it comes to instances of racial discrimination and the lack of white people present at meetings like the town hall.
Cepin also mentioned that since it’s unknown what the individuals responsible for the drawings look like and what race they are, he posed a question asking if they were students of color. One student present said there needed to be more outreach, if that is the case.
Ebony Derr, a junior majoring in accounting, said she attended the town hall to be a part of a discussion that could lead to change.
“It’s really important that we have a space where our voices can be heard and we can come together and actually work towards getting things done on campus because it doesn’t seem like the administration is going to any time soon,” Derr said.
Cepin said that he thought the meeting went well, and it showed that students are capable of coming together.
“It was a really good event and it shows that students are united and definitely have conviction when it comes to pushing for a more progressive campus,” Cepin said.
Since the incident, residents of communities around campus have received emails from residential life staff.
“I recognize that this intolerable situation has impacted many of you as students of this campus and just as human beings,” Sarah Boniche, the assistant residential coordinator of Digman Hall wrote. “Please know that the Residential Life staff of Digman Hall and Dickinson Community are here to support you in any capacity that you may need.
Next week, Cepin and Gonzalez said they will be hosting another town hall to discuss the incident and focus on what action to take next. The time and location of this meeting have yet to be determined.