Black@Cabrini: BIPOC community shares their experiences of racial bias on campus

By Gabrielle Cellucci
July 24, 2020

BlackAtCabrini

Editor’s note: This story was part of a group of 2020 stories that shared the 2021 Student Keystone Media Award  for stories relating to DIVERSITY. Reporters: America Lopez-Santiago and Gabrielle Cellucci.

Editor’s Note: The Loquitur respects the desire by organizers of the account Black@Cabrini to remain anonymous.

For a long time, many students, alumni, faculty and staff members who belong to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community have felt uncomfortable at their school due to racial bias and microaggressions. As a way to provide a safe space for those part of the BIPOC community, the Instagram account Black@Cabrini was created to allow students to anonymously share their stories about the racial issues on campus with the rest of the Cabrini community. 

Black@Cabrini was initially created on June 19, which is the same day as the annual celebration of Juneteenth. Since the account’s creation, Black@Cabrini uploads multiple posts on a daily basis. The account currently has a total of 850 followers and 133 posts. Black@Cabrini is anonymous in order to to provide a safe space for anyone who wants their voice to be heard with the reassurance that their identity will be protected. 

“We keep ourselves anonymous because the people are anonymous,” a representative from the account said. “For us running the account it is more about showing you can trust that your voice will be heard and protected. The beauty of being anonymous, is that you are not telling your truth to a stranger, you are speaking in front of a mirror.”

One of the account’s first posts was asking students to share their stories with Black@Cabrini about their experiences with racial bias on campus. On June 19 alone, Black@Cabrini had a total of 17 posts, and 15 of those posts were stories from current and former students about how they were discriminated against by other students, teachers and staff members at Cabrini. 

On July 1, Black@Cabrini wrote out a list of demands for the university to respond to or agree to. As of now there are 18 demands that they have written for Cabrini to respond to them by July 15. The date marks Patron Saint Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini’s birthday.

“The urgency is now, none of these issues are new to Cabrini. The fall semester is right around the corner and there is higher tension on campus than patience. It is best to fix the problems as much as you can and as soon as possible before the new school year,” Black@Cabrini said.

Here are the first three demands:

  1. That there be a resource in place for faculty and staff of color. They are suffering just like your students of color.
  2. The SEaL be restructured and CAP Board dismembered. Programs should be planned and executed by all student organizations. If CAP Board cannot be dismembered, then it needs to consist of executive board members of every student organization.
  3. That the Cabrini Alumni Association come and talk to students like the Board of Trustees does. They need to know what is happening on campus. If you want us to give back to Cabrini, this is a start.

To view the full list of demands from Black@Cabrini, click here.

 

One of the demands is to have Cabrini Activity Programming (CAP Board) dismembered, because it has come to Black@Cabrini’s attention that the current state of the Students Engagement and Leadership office is not in the shape to represent a welcoming environment for all students. Black@Cabrini wants to make sure that the organizations get the remodeling they have needed for a long time. They feel it is important for Cabrini to follow a club council module for more effective activities and programs. 

As the days pass, there are new stories from students, alumni and faculty of how they or someone they know have been discriminated against for their race or have seen it happen to others. Some of these stories include how certain faculty members have discriminated against others and if they should have diversity training or be removed from their positions. 

“We understand that some circumstances from certain individuals may have not been aware of the state Cabrini University is currently in, that being said our true goal is accountability and proper consequences for repeated offenders that did not make Cabrini Campus the friendly environment we all hope for it to be,” Black@Cabrini said.

Two days after Black@Cabrini posted their demand’s list on Instagram, President Donald Taylor emailed a video to all current students and teachers about Cabrini’s plan to address racism on campus. 

“The experiences that have been shared by Black Cabrini community members by alumni, students, faculty and staff of color [and] stories of events and behavior occurring on our very own campus are heartbreaking,” President Taylor said in his video. “We have not lived up to our institution’s ideals or to the expectations set before us.” 

President Taylor continued to mention various ways that the school plans to hold people accountable and make the campus a truly welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. The president stated in the video that he recognized the need for immediate action and has implemented the ethics point reporting system as a way to allow students, faculty and staff to anonymously report incidents of racism and racial bias on campus. President Taylor also mentioned that the school will be mandating unconscious bias and microaggression training for all faculty, staff and students. 

Dr. Jerry Zurek, a faculty member for 50 years in the communication department, believes that Black@Cabrini raised very important issues by sharing these anonymous stories. 

“As teachers, we don’t know what goes on outside of class that much,” Zurek said. “Learning all the things that go on in the resident halls, clubs and things like that was very saddening to many of us.” 

Screenhshot of Dr. Zurek’s interaction with the account.

The Loquitur reached out to the administrators and staff members listed above and were told to refer any questions to President Taylor, who later responded via email that he was meeting with representatives behind the account and did not want to make any public statements yet. 

Dr. Michelle Filling-Brown, dean of the school of humanities and social sciences, posted a public apology on the Facebook page for Cabrini’s school of humanities and social sciences on July 3. 

Screenshot of apology by Dr. Filling-Brown on Cabrini’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences Facebook Page.

When asked if Black@Cabrini was shocked about all the stories or if they felt like this was “normal,” they mentioned how the account and demands have been a long time coming. They also felt like this proves how Cabrini has let errors slip through the cracks and how this is time for them to reflect on the incidents that have occurred on campus. 

“It saddens us that we have only been an account for less than a month and we have over 130+ and close to 1,000 followers while Diversity only has 362 and CAP Board 764, SEaL 817 followers,” Black@Cabrini said. “What does that look like to the Cabrini family, what does that say about us? The beauty of the Black Lives Movement, just like #Metoo, shows we are not alone but why did it take so long when Cabrini prior to now has an inclusivity council and made a task force to talk about Racial disparity on campus.”

On July 15, Black@Cabrini had a meeting with Taylor; Dr. Chioma Ugochukwu, provost; and Bryan Eury, chief of staff. They discussed all the concerns that were brought to the account from other students and presented their demands. Black@Cabrini made sure that the students’ stories were heard and to emphasize that the campus should be a safe space. They are making sure that the campus is a place that feels like home for all the BIPOC people- staff, faculty, students and anyone who visits. 

Gabrielle Cellucci

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