The Student Diversity Board has proposed a protocol designed to prevent and respond to hate crimes on campus, SDB General Representative Eric Lind said last Tuesday, Oct. 16.
The 17-page protocol, which has passed through the Board, has yet to be approved by the administration, Lind said. According to Lind, the protocol also calls for adequate support for the victims of hate crimes and heightened “inclusiveness” for the entire campus community.
The proposal includes an online forum, which will allow members of the university community to report on-campus crimes, particularly hate-related infringements. The forum, Lind said, would be an addition to the campus’s security Web site, and copied by default to, among others, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Dean of Students.
The protocol is in response to acts of bigotry committed on campus during this semester, the most recent one being the incident in the Commons residence hall on Oct. 11, in which a vandal wrote racial epithets on the message boards of multiple doors.
Freshman LaShawn Bushay, a Commons resident, lives in one of the three dorm rooms that were targeted by the perpetrator.
“I was upset because I couldn’t believe that this is what it had come to,” said Bushay. “I’m here, and I’m no different than anyone else.”
Bushay said that she found the racial slur written on her message board early Thursday morning, at around 6:45 pm. After taking a shower, Bushay got dressed and reemerged from her room to discover that the writing had been erased from the board. Bushay reported the vandalism to an RA after discovering the same epithets on two other doors.
Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Kathleen McCourt, whose Oct. 11 memo informed students of the incident, commented on what happened.
“I think students want to erase something that’s hateful, but what they should do is report it, so that the evidence can be reviewed by the investigators,” McCourt said.
McCourt said that while the campus policy on hate crimes has not changed since the first racial incident, which occurred in another residence hall earlier this semester, the Hamden Police Department was not asked to conduct an investigation until it happened the second time.
“We were not successful the first time in finding who did it,” she said. “We wanted to get all the assistance we could in trying to find who did it.”
McCourt said that she does not know whether the incidents are linked because the police investigation is not yet complete.
“I don’t know if the same person or persons committed both of them,” she said. “They are certainly linked in the sense that the people who did them don’t respect our community, and don’t respect the people who are in our community, and don’t respect themselves.”
McCourt believes that the campus community as a whole has responded well to the incidents by condemning the acts and working toward educating students.
“I think many in the university community are doing what they can,” said McCourt. “They are making public statements that this is unacceptable and does not reflect our values.
The faculty is discussing these incidents in class and trying to make students aware of why behavior like this is so harmful and hurtful not only to individuals, but to our community. The residence hall directors are having meetings with students. Student government has taken a position, opposing this behavior like this. So I think people are responding with care, and I think what must happen is that students must control themselves and control their peers, so that this behavior doesn’t repeat itself.”
While Bushay noted the value of diversity education, she also said that in a meeting with Dean Manuel Carreiro, she proposed that the administration implement hidden cameras to catch future perpetrators.
“We can educate as much as we want, but it’s up to the individual to want to become educated,” said Bushay. “You can’t force it upon them.”
Bushay offered advice to future hate crime victims.
“Don’t be afraid to say how you feel,” she said. “If you feel you need to meet with people, then go ahead and do that. It’s all about getting your voice heard and showing people how these situations affect you.”
Bushay said that her peers have been a good support base for her in the aftermath of the incident, and that although she does not feel less safe, her mindset has been changed.
“My roommates have been very helpful,” said Bushay. “Everyone has been very supportive and understanding. I feel safe, it’s more so about my comfort level. The idea that people have this hate, and that they’re willing to act on it, is in the back of my mind.”