Over the weekend, a racial slur was written on a board inside an on-campus residence hall. This is not the first time an incident like this has occurred at Shippensburg University.
There were a few very public incidents during the 2019-20 academic year in which Black students were harassed, intimidated and had the n-word used against them.
And now, a week into the 2020-21 academic year, we find ourselves in the same situation.
As a community, we must ask ourselves, “Why does this keep happening?”
What can we do to combat hate on our campus? Unfortunately there is no clear-cut answer that will solve the issues we face overnight.
Does it start with more intensive academic diversity requirements for freshmen? One part of the solution could be a mandatory class that teaches tolerance and understanding of different races and cultures. Perhaps all students could be required to attend one “Courageous Conversation” or “Days of Human Understanding” event each semester.
Is it increased visibility and funding for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA)? (Shoutout to the wonderful work Ms. Di, Kapri and the entire staff and student body in Gilbert Hall. You guys rock and never cease to amaze me with your love, passion and hospitality!)
I attended the Saturday afternoon Zoom meeting hosted by Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Jirard.
I was happy to see so many members of the campus community from all levels join the conversation.
The topics of the conversation ranged from how the university reacted to the situation to the yearning of more information about what exactly happened.
The most important takeaway from the Zoom was the fact community members came together and had a conversation. These participants showed their devotion to one another by speaking up and sharing their voices about the injustices that plague SU and our greater communities and world.
It is our job to speak out against these injustices — to use our voices for change and to amplify the voices who are not prominently heard. We must use our voices to drown out those who choose to root their opinions in hate.
I believe a conversation must start — and be continued. It is one thing to pledge one’s support for a cause and then gradually lose passion until something new comes along. It is another to follow through.
We must listen to each other and be willing to have conversations. Every act of change starts with the humility to listen, learn and begin to understand a different perspective.
To the students impacted through this incident and every incident like it, you have a right to be on this campus. You are welcome on this campus. You belong on this campus.
To those who choose to use racial slurs and perpetuate the associated toxic culture, I hope you use this situation as an opportunity for education. I hope that someone chooses to have a conversation with you or maybe you can challenge your own beliefs and try and see the other side. Educate yourself.
SU community members, we must be better.