Student Affairs Addresses Incident of Bias
Issue   |   Wed, 10/05/2016 - 01:11

Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey sent a campuswide email last Thursday addressing a widely shared Facebook post about alleged incidents involving racial bias on campus. In her email, Coffey reminded community members of the college’s processes for responding to “incidents of bias and disrespect.”

“In all cases, students who believe that they have been subject to offensive behavior or that the Honor Code has been violated are consulted about their experiences and given options for how the college should be involved,” Coffey wrote. “Staff from the Office of Student Affairs can and do take a range of measures — formal or informal — in order to reduce conflict, repair injury and improve the quality of life within the community.”

ShoYoung Shin ’19 wrote the Facebook post on Sept. 24. In the post, she described an incident in which a white student made racially biased comments in her sociology class, as well as another incident involving a tense conversation between a white male student and a group of Asian students in front of Seligman House. Shin said the student confronted the group and made statements suggesting that students of color on financial aid should be thankful to him, since he paid full tuition.

Shin said that the post had received more attention than she had expected and that many alumni have contacted her in response to the post.

According to Shin, the incident came to the attention of staff at the college, including deans with whom she has been in contact. Dean Gendron, the director of conduct and community standards and associate dean of students, has communicated with Shin about her options in responding to the incident, Shin said.

When reached for comment via email, Coffey said that she was unable to discuss the specifics of the incident, but that the college was working toward “creating an inclusive environment” through several avenues, including the resource centers for students, the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Norm Jones, the college’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said his office would provide a statement, but had not provided one by press time.

On Sunday, Oct. 2, the “Dialogue on Race” discussion centered on students of Asian heritage and their experiences on campus. Professor Jyl Gentzler, who organizes the discussion series, made this issue the focus of this week’s discussion after she became aware of the incident, Shin said.

“Many participants, myself included, noted that this was the first institutionally sponsored racial dialogue on Asian-Americans,” Alex Liu ’19, who attended the dialogue, said. “Even when discussing Asian-American race relations in private and with friends, dialogue can hit a wall, as discrimination against Asian-Americans is wrongly perceived as not being as prevalent or harmful as discrimination against other minorities.”

Shin said that she hoped that in the future, the college would be more open in dealing with incidents like these as well as the “tough conversations” that follow.