Students protest handling of racial bias incidents

Over 25 students joined in a protest against the college’s racial discrimination and sexual assault policies in front of the main entrance of the Henderson Campus Center at noon on Monday, Sept. 17.

The protest, which was initially sparked by a Sept. 8 racial bias incident, was organized in part by Taylor Marzouca, ’21, and is part of a series of protests planned for the week.

Protesters held signs criticizing the college’s handling of on-campus incidents and its failure to hold students accountable.

“As it stands, our administration has proven to tolerate racism and sexual harassment,” one sign read.

Others quoted the college’s Statement of Community or questioned Allegheny’s commitment to it.

“Is our administration upholding their own Statement of Community?” another sign asked.

Members of college administration came to watch and converse with the protesters, including President James Mullen, Provost and Dean of the College Ron Cole and Dean of Students April Thompson.

A Sept. 11 email Dukes and Thompson sent to the college community noted that “a student used a racial slur directed at a Black student.”

In a planning meeting held Sunday, Sept. 16, members of the Association for the Advancement of Black Culture and others interested in the protests said this slur was used at the Men of Color Advancement Association’s special interest house.

Students at the meeting also said was not the first time the student used the slur, nor was it the first time students reported this to Allegheny College administration.

During the Monday protest, Thompson asked demonstrators to explain what, exactly, they hoped to see changed in Allegheny’s policies and its application of them.

“You have people right here, right now,” Thompson said.

Thompson later asked what the protesters expect from other students. Marzouca replied, saying students are expected to follow the college’s Statement of Community, but added that it is both students’ and the administration’s responsibility to enforce the statement.

Other students asked Thompson about the college’s policy for communicating with students about incidents like the one on Sept. 8.

“(The email) wasn’t specific enough,” Jules Figueroa, ’20, said. “Being told ‘someone was called a racial slur’ isn’t specific enough.”

Amya Ruiz, ’22, expanded on that, saying the community has not been notified of the gravity of past incidents.

“Situations like this are happening and it’s just the same copy and paste email,” Ruiz said. “Being called ‘n—–’ is enough, but (students are) being chased, having it carved in our doors, almost being hit by trucks.”

You have people right here, right now

— April Thompson, Dean of Students, Allegheny College

Protesters also spoke with Thompson about the perceived different treatment of students in Title IX sexual harassment and assault cases based on their race.

One case in which minority students were treated unfairly, they said to Thompson, was the treatment of the arrest of Moses Alcantara Garcia, a former student. In Alcantara’s case, the Office of Public Safety sent an email to the Allegheny community communicating that information.

In a case involving a white student, Trey Serbin, protesters said, the college did not notify students that Serbin had two protection from abuse orders against him for two separate on-campus sexual assaults, and allegedly moved him into Ravine-Narvik Hall.

The problem of communication, protesters say, also applies to these cases.

“I understand confidentiality is for keeping people safe, but what about our safety?” Ruiz said.

Some students said the college should tell residents in a certain residence hall that a student accused of sexual assault has been moved there.

“I want to know who’s in my dorm because that’s my safe zone, that’s where I go to bed at night,” said Natalie Sciulli, ’20.

Students stood outside of the campus center from noon to 1 p.m. all week. As the week progressed, faculty joined in the demonstration.