Words have consequences

By Lainey Porter

Recent incidents involving vandalism and racial slurs have created tension among students and faculty at SUNY Brockport.

Freshman Tatum Smyth lives in Gordon Hall, one of the two dorms the vandalism took place and was frustrated to hear about these incidents.

“They made me feel very uncomfortable and there was no reason for racial
slurs to be written anywhere on this campus. I think Brockport has been
handling this situation well and I hope incidents like this do not happen
again,” said Smyth.

There has been a total of fifteen Bias Incident Reports during the fall 2022
semester at Brockport. Chief Diversity Officer Damita Davis has been working diligently to resolve the most recent incidents that took place in Gordon and Bramley Hall.

“In both Bramley and Gordon Hall, there were two points of vandalism. One
bulletin board had the N-word fully spelled out and in the other incidences it
was the first three letters of the N-word that were written in Gordon; one on a
bulletin board and the second was on student doors,” Davis said.

These were reported through the Bias Incident Report system. This is a
system in place for students, staff and faculty to report non-emergency
incidents in an effort to cultivate a better and more inclusive campus.

“When we have a bias incident that’s reported it comes to me and the five
other members of the bias response team,” said Davis. “They serve in different
functional areas across the university. The person or people named in the
report and the location of where the report is will determine who investigates
that particular incident. In the case of the vandalism in the two residence
halls that will be investigated by folks in student affairs.”

The Director of Housing will likely be involved ensuring things are being
followed up upon, as well as the Resident Director who will check in with
students to gather any additional information regarding the incidents.

“The results of that investigation will determine touching base with any
potential witnesses,” Davis said. If someone is named in the report, we will
follow up with them. The investigator reports back to the bias response team in
terms of the investigations’ outcome. If a faculty or staff member is named in
a report in the investigation (that most likely is done by HR) will be done
within the guides of whatever union that employee or faculty member belongs
to.”

Brockport sent out an email on Monday, Oct. 24 notifying students of two
incidents that occurred over the weekend in Bramley Hall. A similar email went out
on Saturday, Nov. 5 the day after two more incidents took place in Gordon. Both
emails made it very clear they are being looked into and that this behavior is
frowned upon.

As of right now, the college does not know of everyone who is involved. There
are no cameras on the residence floor halls making it difficult to identify and
hold accountable.

“A lot of questions we get are, ‘why can’t we know the outcome of a case?’
or ‘why can’t we know what cases are coming in and who’s involved?’ Well, there
are privacy laws that we have to adhere to. What we did in an effort to be
transparent is create a dashboard that is on the website. It’s live and the
dashboard lets you know when a report came in, the date an incident happened,
what form of bias was reported, the form of incident that was reported, etc. and
we don’t get too specific,” said Davis.

Sophomore Milo Scheve lives in Bramley Hall and appreciates the fact
Brockport has tools like this and the Bias Report System.

 “I feel like they are useful tools for students to use. We have a
guaranteed outlet to make campus a better place for us and the community,” said
Scheve.

Davis notes although incidents like this remain an issue, the use of the
Bias Report System is a step in the right direction. Students on campus
utilizing these systems means people are aware of what the process is and that they want to hold people accountable when things like this happen.  

“Do we want tons of reports? No. However, the more we get, the more we know
what we need to address in a timely manner,” said Davis. “If we can see trends
and patterns, then we can address those systematically. Part of my role is to convene the team. I review the cases to see if there are patterns and if there are
patterns, what do we need to do to address that? So that is helpful information
to us.”

The display of racism and hate speech has become part of a common trend
across the country in higher education.

“Unfortunately, this type of behavior will probably continue because people do not grasp the ramifications of vandalizing, particularly with racial slurs, or other discriminatory language and how that impacts the community,” said Davis. “When we can’t hold those responsible accountable the way we want to, we’re sending out a message saying, this is what’s going on to the community. It may appear that we’re not taking things seriously and for some, we give them the sense that they’re not going to get found out, so they just continue doing this behavior, but they do have serious ramifications.”

Damaging state property is criminal but Davis believes they also “damage the desire and our want to foster community amongst faculty, staff and students.”

Davis hopes to see less of this behavior and for people to understand the reparations.

“People think that it’s just graffiti and it doesn’t really matter, or it doesn’t hurt anybody; well, no, it does,” Davis said. “It hurts the community in multiple ways. And so, unfortunately, I would not be surprised if we get more reported incidents. I hope we’re able to identify those who are responsible for the vandalism and hold them to account for their behavior and the damage that that causes.”

The Bias Incident Report is a step in the right direction in creating a better campus, but Brockport will have to work hard as an institution to cultivate a culture shift where all students, faculty and staff hold one another accountable and educate each other; because words have consequences.

 

 

 

 



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