On March 7, Binghamton University X-Fact’r Step Team was verbally harassed with a string of racialized comments and threats. The incident occurred on Walnut Street on Binghamton’s West Side.
Since then, the students involved, as well as others, have expressed the belief that the event was not properly investigated by the Binghamton Police Department and have received almost no support from the University administration in trying to rectify the situation. Click here for our coverage of this story.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that students facing discrimination have felt alienated by the University. While BU’s administration is capable of sending out announcements condemning the verbal assault of students on and off campus, the cookie-cutter nature and intentional vagueness of the statements makes them feel insincere and keeps students feeling unsafe.
We have seen that there is a steadfast belief among many students of color that their concerns are not taken seriously by the University. By remaining silent on racially charged issues and incidents that directly impact students, those in power reinforce this sentiment and leave those affected not only resentful of the community, but of the University as well.
While it may be difficult for some members of the administration to directly empathize with those who face discrimination, more effort must be given to validating the experiences of students who face discrimination — and with more than a B-Line addition. These experiences have a profound effect one’s mental and physical well-being, and to treat them as anything less than traumatic is at best tone-deaf and at worst, destructive.
Through years of selective silence and improper handling of student concerns, Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and the BU administration have played a role in both maintaining this atmosphere and creating it.
We understand that if Stenger issues a response condemning the city’s handling of the incident, he would inherently be criticizing the actions of the Binghamton Police Department. Police and community relations is a politically charged topic and would surely encourage controversy and debate — something that could look bad for a school that is on an expeditious path toward “premier.”
However, Stenger and the rest of the administration must realize that this goes beyond politics. Defending the safety and well-being of BU students should be their priority, even if it means opening themselves up to some flak in the process. We agree with the College Progressives, Thurgood Marshall Pre-Law Society and The Frances Beal Society’s letter that urges the administration to publicly support X-Fact’r. Stenger should condemn the incident directly — not through an ambiguous B-line update.
Beyond that, he should take steps to use his influence to work with Mayor Rich David in pushing for an investigation of the police department’s handling of the incident. While calling for Stenger to directly criticize the Binghamton Police Department may lead to pushback, speaking with Mayor David could open up channels for action at a faster pace. While Stenger must act, so must other relevant members of the administration like Dean of Students April Thompson, whose job it is to support on and off-campus students. Condemning the racist actions taken against BU students falls under her jurisdiction.
A comprehensive statement condemning the incident and its handling will by no means repair the fractured trust the administration has with many students of color. Yet, genuinely addressing student concerns is a necessary first step in doing so.
What happened to X-Fact’r was a cut-and-dry instance of racial discrimination. There is little doubt that members were targeted based on their race, so it should not be a tough decision for the University to come to their support. This is not a time to mince words, provide halfhearted PR statements and hide behind calculated silence. We hope that Stenger and the rest of the administration will be brave enough to take the proper steps toward justice.