Ignorant comments in class. Racial slurs hurled from moving cars. Not feeling safe walking from the library to a dorm room at night.
These are just a few of the experiences related by Binghamton University students of color Tuesday night at “BU Student Speak Out Against Racism,” an event hosted by students from the BU College of Community and Public Affairs at the University Downtown Center.
According to organizers, the event was scheduled in response to the racist incidents that occurred on campus in October and what speakers said is a lack of appropriate response by the administration. Speakers were invited to speak for a maximum of three minutes.
Briana Jones, a senior majoring in human development, quoted James Baldwin, a U.S. writer and social activist, to describe how she’s felt during her time at BU.
“To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” Jones said to the approximately 100 people gathered.
Jones said her experiences over the last 3 1/2 years have made her feel frustrated, hopeless and powerless.
“I’m angry that I even have to be at this podium today,” she said. “I’m angry because we’ve been having the same conversations about racism over and over again and this University still thinks a quick B-Line message is enough.”
In October, three racist drawings were found in campus dorms: on Oct. 6, a drawing featuring racist pictures of black people was found in a lounge in Endicott Hall of Newing College; on Oct. 8, a racist message was found in a bathroom in Onondaga Hall of College-in-the-Woods; on Oct. 24, a sticky note with a swastika on it was found in Digman Hall of Dickinson Community.
Following the first incident, students specifically criticized language used in the news addition that stated the drawings were “characterized as racist” instead of racist.
Students Tuesday said the administration has a history of not doing enough to address the concerns of students of color.
“The Binghamton administration, who reportedly serves everyone equally, ignored the actions by a few students,” said Kalissa Sawyer, vice president of the Latin American Student Union and a senior majoring in human development.
When Pipe Dream reached out to the administration for comment Wednesday, the following statement was provided by Ryan Yarosh, director of media and public relations at BU.
“The administration is committed to working with faculty, staff, and students to ensure that Binghamton University is an inclusive, safe, and welcoming community,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “We responded to all of these incidents swiftly and we will continue to do so in the future should similar incidents occur. We take all instances of racism very seriously and have no tolerance for these types of acts.”
A complete list of President Stenger’s statements, including the ones regarding this semester’s incidents, can be found here.
During the event, multiple speakers noted that there was no one present to represent the University’s leadership. Yarosh said the administration was not aware of the event.
Serena Wilson, a senior majoring in human development, encouraged white members of the audience to stand as allies to students of color who’ve expressed concerns, and to those who haven’t.
“We need to challenge white peers to be allies, to listen,” Wilson said.
Proposed ways to deal with the problem of racism on campus included acknowledging its presence and pervasiveness.
“Racism is rooted in the fabric of this country and in the fabric of this state,” said Urenna Nwogwugwu, ‘17. “Racism is rooted in every pavement and tile of this campus. Once we acknowledge that, we can create ways to educate the populace.”