Public Safety investigates recent racial harrassment

By Sara Blair Matthews
Assistant News Editor

Several University students and a professor were the victims of racial slurs and intimidating behavior on campus on April 4 between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. The suspects are a group of college-age, white males who were seen driving a dark colored sedan. The incident is under investigation and the charge has been classified as harassment.

“Such slurs are an affront to the values of Bucknell, violate our shared sense of civility and are an insult to the respect we share for one another. They will not be tolerated,” President John Bravman said.

Nina Banks, acting Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender (CSREG), believes that while students, faculty and staff of color have raised concerns over racial harassment for many years, but the University has taken few meaningful steps to address these issues.

“CSREG is [especially] troubled by the recent incidents of racial harassment at the University [because] these incidents did not suddenly spring up but instead are part of [the University] climate,” Banks said.

Banks believes the racial harassment on campus is tied to a larger issue where racial, ethnic and other minority groups are too often made to feel unwelcome and marginal.

“One of the students who was accosted by the car filled with white males told me that she no longer feels safe walking around campus at night,” Banks said.

Banks sees these recent incidents not as exceptions, but rather as a pattern of students of color being verbally insulted by white students using racial slurs.

When asked whether she would consider the University a racially safe campus, Banks said it would depend on how one defines “safe.” Banks believes an environment where students of color are “subjected to ridicule by other students or made to feel unwelcome in the classroom or lab by their … classmates [is] not a racially safe environment.”

“[Neither is a place where] black staff [members’ work] is undermined by colleagues [to the point where they] worry about losing their jobs because they have upset the white power structure at Bucknell,” Banks said.

Banks thinks that the campus community needs to begin to have honest conversations about the racial problems at the University before we can reduce the atmosphere of racial tension. Other faculty members agree.

“The University [is] having a ‘crisis’ in areas of race and inclusion,” a colleague of Banks said.

In response to the recent events, the Department of Public Safety sent out a Timely Notification Bulletin alerting campus of this incident and urging students to come forward if they know any information about this occurrence. Public Safety could say nothing more than acknowledge that the investigation is ongoing.

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