Letter to the Editor: Administration fell short in response to blackface incident

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I am writing to you as an Allegheny alumna, a former Association for the Advancement of Black Culture Executive Board member and current Multicultural Coordinator/Admission Counselor for Juniata College, a school very similar to Allegheny.
Since I have graduated and am safely removed from Allegheny’s disciplinary realm, I feel at liberty to freely express my opinions about the following events.
I know for a fact that my opinions are representative of many current members of the Allegheny community who feel too vulnerable to express the following.
Last week The Campus printed a full page advertisement for ABC’s forum discussion held this past Tuesday.
The ad was a catalyst for change, because it informed students all across campus about the forum discussion. Clearly this promotion worked well, because the event was standing room only.
ABC called the forum discussion because Halloween weekend presented a plethora of racist events on our campus.
Two white students dressed up as Kid Cudi and Lil’ Wayne, adding blackface to their costumes, a highly offensive, racist and oppressive tradition.
Five other students dressed up as “Mexicans” by wearing sombreros, ponchos and large fake moustaches.
ABC used the forum as an opportunity to appeal to the Allegheny administration, and the Allegheny community as a whole for the establishment of a welcoming and egalitarian living and learning community at Allegheny.
They also opened the floor for anyone to share personal stories of discrimination they have faced on our campus.
The stories were very moving and emotional. Members explained incidents involving the intolerance of students as well as the inappropriate behavior of staff members.
It was important for the few administrators present to hear that the problems come from students and staff alike.
The aforementioned incidents, as well as countless others that have been tactfully swept under the rug, are indicative of the racially ignorant and culturally intolerant nature perpetuated by the Allegheny administration as a whole.
ABC had to organize the only formal response to the racist incidents that occurred Halloween weekend.
In my experience, and the experiences of many Alleghenians that I know and love, this lack of administrative action is typical.
The administration more often than not fails in directly responding to intolerance on our campus.
Student organizations should NOT hold the responsibility of executing formal responses to racist and intolerant incidents.
In the past, if it was not a student group that organized the response it was a multicultural staff member that took action.
This is NOT the responsibility of our multicultural staff; they should not be responsible for counteracting racism and intolerance in addition to executing their day-to-day responsibilities.
The administration should be doing this. Additionally, it is not the sole responsibility of The Office of Diversity Affairs to respond to intolerance on our campus.
I believe that many administrators are under the impression that they simply need to recruit multicultural students and hire multicultural staff members in order to fix our intolerant atmosphere.
Once on campus, if a multicultural Allegheny student does not find a multicultural staff/faculty ally, they are left to fend for themselves in an overtly hostile environment.
I am not writing this letter merely to berate our administration. It truly saddens me that Allegheny has been inadequate for so long. Many of our administrators are genuinely kind people, but they are absolutely oblivious when it comes to multiculturalism.
To remedy this, ABC suggested the following actions be taken IMMEDIATELY:
Every administrator, faculty and staff member should be required to participate in a formal diversity seminar.
This should occur annually because multicultural issues are constantly changing.
Every student admitted to Allegheny should also be required to participate in a formal diversity seminar as part of freshman orientation.
In the meantime, current students should also be required to participate in said seminar.
ABC also wants the opportunity to formally discuss the possibility of bringing black Greek organizations to our campus.
They have been denied this opportunity numerous times in the past, and students who wanted to participate in Black Greek life have had to go to other campuses to do so.
The forum allowed ABC to make their requests clear. I think their requests are certainly within reason and are a small, but necessary, step in the right direction.
As an ABC alumnus, I am calling out the Allegheny administration on their lack of action, their abdication from responsibility and their current state of ignorance; they must take direct action.
Nicely written e-mails are not direct action, though they have been a popular method of response in the past.
Clearly, previous tactics have failed. I challenge the Allegheny administration to immediately implement the aforementioned suggestions.
I also challenge Allegheny’s white community to take a more active role in promoting social justice on our campus.
Again, many current members of the Allegheny community concur with the argument detailed above, but they feel too silenced and vulnerable to properly voice their opinions.
This silence is a product of constant neglect and the dismissal of past complaints.
Because of this, it has taken a former Alleghenian beyond the disciplinary realm of the administration to write this long overdue letter.
While I am happy that ABC’s full page ad in The Campus was effective, it is unsettling that such an ad was necessary just to get a handful of administrators to listen to our students.

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