“Intolerance 4 Intolerance’ forum held in Gibble”
By Ragina Lashley
A campus-wide forum , “Intolerance 4 Intolerance,” was held in Gibble Auditorium on Wednesday, April 3 at 11 a.m. The event was part of the efforts to curb the prejudices against students, and to encourage a commitment to tolerance and inclusion at Elizabethtown College.
Attendees were a mixture of students, staff, faculty and members of the Etown community. Each person was free to take turns sharing experiences, opinions or asking questions of the panel, including those within the Office of the President, and campus groups such as Student Senate, NOIR, Allies and the Latino Student Union.
Vice President of the Student Senate Executive Cabinet senior Kristen Lacaillade and President of the Executive Cabinet junior Robert Graham were approached by Marianne Calenda, dean of students, and President Strikwerda with a forum with Student Senate. The forum would be a follow-up to the last forum event, held in Hoover. Only this time, in addition to being another open discussion, the forum would update the audience on the cases that have been reported on campus. It would also be an opportunity to reassure the community of the steps being taken to discontinue the acts of bias.
Amy Mountain, director of the Office of Marketing and Communications, with Calenda and Strikwerda, came up with the concept for the event, as well as its title.
During the forum, Calenda revealed that expressions of hate related to race, sexuality and gender had risen in locations such as the Thompson Gym. The racial incidents initially occurred on whiteboards in various residence halls.
Of all 20 incidents, only two are classified as hate crimes. One, consisting of an etching on a bathroom stall, is classified as vandalism. Calenda stated that such information will be given “if it helps those understand it’s not a joke.” However, President Strikwerda, during the forum and a campus-wide email last week, reiterated the decision to withhold the nature of the incidents, stating, “It serves no purpose to publish the specific words or comments; to do so is hurtful to the victim and gives unnecessary public exposure to the perpetrator.” Calenda also acknowledged that there is hesitation to focus on the hate, and said she has no intention to have the victims experience it again.
The forum featured a variety of statements from both students and staff. Jesse Waters, visiting assistant professor of English and director of Bowers Writers House, shared a poem titled “Horses” by Moshe Bennarroch, and briefly mentioned being affected by prejudice. Assistant Professor of Sociology Dr. Rita Shah and Professor of Religion and Asian Studies Dr. Jeffrey Long posed solutions, such as removing those who commit such acts against others, and making clear not only the differences among people on campus, but also the similarities as a reminder of our purpose in order to create a community at Etown.”
“[Information] is needed for a better understanding,” junior Rustin Dudley said, speaking of her interactions with those disconnected from the issue due to lack of details given to students. Diarra Molock, a first-year, suggested a class within the core program providing a general education on diversity within society. Dealing with micro-aggression, sophomore Bruchette Myrtil, president of NOIR, suggested that campus community members “be honest and speak up.”
Other faculty members, such as Director of Diversity Diane Elliot said, “It’s bothersome when people aren’t outraged … it makes it seem as if human dignity is okay to violate.” Nancy Florey, associate vice president for human resources at Etown, stated: “We need to take the campus back.”
Lacaillade hoped that the event brought more awareness of the issue: She said, “Everyone in our community is affected by this one way or another and it’s important to make that aware as well.” On how Intolerance 4 Intolerance reflected on the College, Lacaillade continued that apart from the less than ideal circumstances, “I think it’s important to note that the attention being paid to the way in which the administration is handling it is extremely important. I feel as though if more people paid attention to the progress, and proactive steps being taken to address these issues, and less to the incidents themselves, then we will all be able to move forward and support one another.”
Originally published for The Etownian here