Between the presidential election, the coronavirus and even “The Bachelor,” hate speech has become an important topic of conversation today. More often than not, hate speech stems from a place of deep-seated racism and prejudice. Hate speech is very prevalent on a global scale, and it is just as present here at Binghamton University. However, BU’s campus has very few resources for people of color, making it harder to cope when faced with hate speech, as seen in the protests that occurred in response to Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) tabling last semester.
Following these protests, the protesters, largely racial minorities, faced intense discrimination. On social media, comments in support of TPUSA repeatedly called these protesters animals, aggressive and described them as racist toward white people. All of these labels are historically racist and essential components of what N. Jeremi Duru, a professor of law at American University, calls the myth of the “Bestial Black Man.” One student also told WBNG that “people should be respectful other than loud.” This loudness is yet another component of the stereotypical racial minority, and racialized sound has another long history of oppression.
Though the scale of protests on BU’s campus has decreased since the two protests against College Republicans and TPUSA last semester, underlying racial tensions remain. When hate speech occurs on campus, it can be extremely difficult for students of color to find adequate resources to cope. To start, the University Counseling Center (UCC) is notoriously overbooked and unavailable to students. Although UCC does mention the potential barriers diverse students may face when attempting to use their services, there are only 14 counselors available for a student body that BU President Harvey Stenger says could soon reach 20,000. These constraints make it nearly impossible to schedule nonemergency appointments, let alone with one of the very few counselors who are not white or white passing. This pattern repeats in the advising staff for the largest college at BU, Harpur College, which employs only two visibly nonwhite advisers. When protests like these leave students of color feeling victimized, confidential counseling with someone who understands their experiences could alleviate the intense fears many students face.
Outside of the counseling center, BU also offers very few professors of color for minority students to look up to and learn from. Only 16 percent of BU’s faculty is nonwhite, and in a 2014-15 year report, Harpur College outlined some of the main issues it faces in maintaining an inclusive work environment. Among the 11 issues listed, three had to do with the obstacles faced by women — particularly women of color. These issues included the issue of women being “stuck” at the associate rank, dealing with bullying and harassment of women and faculty of color and the disproportionate resigning rates of female faculty and faculty of color. With underwhelming counselor availability, these professors can often be very helpful mentors for students. However, students may struggle to discuss issues stemming from racial identity with professors who they feel cannot understand their issues on a personal level. One of the largest populations of international students at BU are from China, and they may also struggle when they are told to rely on the English Language Institute for help, which is entirely white or white passing.
With adult figures of color largely unavailable, students may begin to turn to fellow minority students for guidance. Though personal relationships and discussions can be fruitful, it can also be helpful for students to have certain spaces set aside for them. One example of such a space is the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), whose office in the University Union offers multiple services to increase academic success, cultural awareness and social responsibility among students of color. Through the EOP tutoring program and other student administrative positions, students can look up to and confide in other students who look like them. Although the Multicultural Resource Center may serve similar purposes to the EOP, its services are mostly run by adult faculty members, with undergraduate interns assisting these upper faculty members. Still, the University could benefit greatly from more student-focused resources, given that minority students outside of the EOP program may feel less inclined to visit its office.
BU has stated its commitment to diversity through a multitude of platforms, but students today are observing very little positive change on campus. Students are repeatedly taking classes with primarily white students and white professors, told to seek assistance from white counselors and advisers or struggling to find undergraduate mentors. In the aftermath of such intense hate speech as seen last semester, it is crucial that BU steps up the availability of and diversity within on-campus services.
Kaitlyn Liu is a sophomore majoring in English.