Recap of Fall 2015: Hate Crimes on Campus

by Sarah Lopez, FCRH ’18

Entering college is a time of change, new experiences, and unexpected stress. However, one stress that should never be placed upon a student is to have a racial slur carved into their door. However, such an event occurred to a Fordham University freshman. Naturally, there was outrage about such an occurrence by many people, but there was just as much apathy to follow shortly after. In order to combat this apathy which has overtaken much of the campus, students are advised to learn about the persistence of racist actions on Fordham’s campus. Students must be aware of and proactive in stopping hate crimes before they continue, instead of waiting for there to be another victim before taking action.

September 13, 2015 – a mere week after school began – a black student returns to his room in Lalande Hall to find the “N” word carved into his door. This hate crime was meant to terrorize this poor student and create an unwelcome atmosphere to all students of color and and members of marginalized communities. The university was swift to involve NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, but the case remains unsolved. This crime left a bitter taste in the mouths of many on campus, but the anger and sympathy was not universally felt.

September 20, 2015 – a student reported that a stairwell wall in Lalande Hall had been defaced by crude scratchings of a backwards swastika. As with the first incident, university reaction was swift. The Hate Crimes Task Force was called, and all students were notified of the incident. However, this event was concluded to be a case of “non-bias criminal mischief.” One would think that two racist carvings in the same hall within a week would at the very least prove the existence of an unhealthy campus political climate, but no connection was drawn. And the racist incidents did not end here.

The thought of considering a criminal terrorist act a mere prank is frankly ridiculous. However, since many people chose to excuse this act instead of considering the hurt, anger, and threat created by it, there was very little done about it. This campus apathy, not seeing these hate crimes as a real problem, impedes any real change that could be done. Administrators would like us to believe that these incidents are isolated, rather than symptomatic of a toxic environment. But racism is not going away any time soon, especially when students are discouraged from challenging it head-on..

This is not the first time Fordham has had these issues and it certainly won’t be the last.  Since these individual incidents, initial anger has subsided, these incidents fade into obscurity. Students stop caring, and the apathy halts progress until the next event starts the cycle over again.

February 17, 2012- an RA in Walsh Hall, a woman of color and a senior, returned to her room to find a racial slur written on her door. But her story was not broadcasted to students and faculty – it was kept under wraps by the university. It was not until the young woman decided to organize others around her cause that the incident became public.

More of these hate crimes appeared after the initial one, and students rallied to call for change in the university. The Collective of Concerned Students of Color & Anti-Racist Allies and End the Silence were among groups which arose at this time to organize students, alumni, faculty, and media outlets in order to inspire change in the attitudes and policies of Fordham. There was even an Undoing Racism training attended by about 30 students. However, because this would give the university a bad name, much of the administration and many students resisted this movement, which speaks to the priorities of the university.The school should recognize that a pattern of hate crimes is far from a set of coincidences and the actors in these racist and anti-semitic crimes are not simply a few hateful individuals. Yet for fear of public shame, the school’s bureaucracy would rather write halfhearted emails after each hate crime than assume any responsibility or dedicate any time or resources to create meaningful change at Fordham.

The discussion about racism on campus saw a decided decline after summer break. Many people lost interest and did not continue with organizing for change in the university. That is, until the recent incidents occurred. The student-activists groups are popping up again, but their momentum is waning as quickly as the last time. Campus apathy, the silent killer, strikes again. But there is still hope. When students decide to condemn this culture and these acts, as well as choose to be proactive and seek change before more hate crimes can occur, there will be a chance to make a difference. Students cannot remain passive. They can no longer ignore the long-standing history of racism which lives inside the campus, and inside which the campus lives. You have to make a difference, and you have to make it now. Don’t let apathy win. Learn from the mistakes of past students, and create meaningful change for future students.

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One response to “Recap of Fall 2015: Hate Crimes on Campus

  1. I believe this is an important topic, but one we should address carefully. It is perfectly possible that just one person or a handful of people out of thousands are the ones causing the trouble in the form of defacing property. To turn that into “systematic racism” in the whole college is a bit of a stretch without evidence showing that it’s more than scratching on a wall. It’s really sad that this is happening, but I would be cautious about blaming a whole college for something one individual could have done on his own.

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