Follow-up to the whiteboard incident

Danielle Taylor, Staff Writer

On Aug. 25, students received an email stating that a racist slur had been written and found on a whiteboard on a professor’s office door. Feelings across campus varied and for most, “not again,” was the first thought, but that has quickly passed.

“Initially, I didn’t like how the school handled it … [but] now that it has passed over, I feel much more calm about it,” Tricha Williams ’19 said, who, due to a technical error causing the first-year students to not receive the initial email, learned about the incident via the Internet. “It was very upsetting,” Williams said.

This was certainly not a high point for the University community, but many are hoping that we can utilize this event as an opportunity for self and communal reflection. There will most likely be no further information released regarding what was written and who it was targeted at, out of respect for the target’s privacy, but that should not determine whether or not we continue to work towards change.

“This was an issue of racism and we do not necessarily need to know the exact words to know that this is a problem,” Associate Provost for Diversity Bridget Newell said.

This is a clear indicator that the battle for a more inclusive campus has not been won but the hope is that this incident will not derail our desire for progress.

“I realize that there is an effort to make this campus more inclusive but we have a long way to go,” Williams said.

Newell added that, in terms of diversity and inclusion, this community has much work to do but “we have to keep being intentional” in our efforts, and there is no time to be sidetracked by one person’s ignorance or to pause and celebrate small accomplishments.

She notes that there were fingerprints found at the scene but seeing as it was in an open space, they could belong to anybody. It is awful that the person who did this may not be held accountable but we can still hold this community and ourselves accountable by asking the question, “what can I do?” We do not all scribble racial slurs on whiteboards but we are all influenced by ignorance and we should begin to look to ourselves for the change this campus needs.

With so much attention to diversity and inclusion, there is always the possibility for resistance, and that is how many members of this campus community have chosen to see this situation.

“When I heard about the incident, I didn’t really let it affect me too much because I feel like this is just one person who wants to see Bucknell go backwards from where we were working towards last semester,” Amarachi Ekekwe ’18 said.

Chief of Public Safety Stephen Barilar said that the case is “still a high priority … and we are still trying to discover who is responsible for this crime … I would hope that by identifying the subject responsible for this crime and the motivation behind [his or her] actions could offer a bit of closure to anyone that was negatively impacted by this incident.”

Hopefully, bringing this investigation to a close will be comforting for those hurt by this incident. Either way, this campus is not giving up on its desire to make the University a more diverse and inclusive place.

On Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m., there will be an event at the Weis Center called “Stories That Shape Us.” Faculty members will be addressing key diversity issues and why they matter. Topics will include sexuality, race and ethnicity, gender, class, and allyship. All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to attend.

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