Cabrini community works towards educating campus after racial slur allegation

By Amy Kodrich
February 10, 2020

Cabrini University is working towards better educating the students, faculty and staff about race and language after a Snapchat video of a white student allegedly singing a song containing the N-word went viral.

In response to recent events, the Black Student Union has been working alongside the Office of University Diversity to broadcast and create discussion to “bridge the gap” to understand the origins of derogatory terms and why they are unacceptable.

The first forum, Tuesday, Feb. 18, received various reviews, and according to Renin Broadnax, social media coordinator for BSU, realized that “the school is very divided.”

“Recent campus events have highlighted differing perceptions about the acceptability of the use of racial slurs and inflammatory language in the context of song lyrics,” Dr. Christine Lysionek, vice president for student life, informed the campus community on on Jan. 28,, in response to recent disagreements that had taken place on social media.

On Jan. 22, a video circulated that involved the Cabrini’s men basketball team singing “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill. Some students who watched the video on social media concluded that one student who is white was singing the song that included the N-word.

The N-word is a derogatory term that is directed towards black people and was used to insult black slaves. Today it is prominently used in hip-hop/rap.

The social media video was then screen-recorded by another Cabrini student and was posted on Twitter. Many other students took action to make a statement regarding the video.

The video then went viral with many Cabrini students and alumni getting wind of the situation. Since being widely discussed, the video has been deleted.

Both the athletics department and head coach of Cabrini’s men basketball team have not made formal statements to the campus nor responded to Loquitur’s questions.

The university’s position is that “racial slurs and intolerant language are never an acceptable form of expression, regardless of context. Although there may be no intention of disrespect, such language remains offensive.”

“Moving forward, the university is strongly committed to sponsoring training about inclusivity and diversity for all members of the community,” Lysionek said.

The campus took quick actions to create “an interactive forum designed to talk about the use of language and its impact.” The forum titled Language: Intent vs. Impact and other reasons to talk about race, was held on Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m. in the Grace Hall Atrium.

Host Jose Rodriguez introducing guest speaker and facilitator Nnenna Akotaobi, anti-racism advocate. Photo by Renin Broadanx

The forum was presented by the Office of University Diversity and Initiatives and co-sponsored by Black Student Union and Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

The forum was facilitated by Nnenna Akotaobi, an anti-racism advocate and leader in diversity.

“The time we spent together is about strengthening our community, to listen to one another and to lead more knowledgeable on how words, actions and impact can have…to become a more informed changed agent for life,” host Jose Rodriguez, chief diversity officer, said.

The interactive forum featured skill-building exercises that got students to engage, listen and learn about racialized language.

Akotaobi shared her personal experiences, and how these experiences have shaped her, mapped out students salient identity and talked about the history of the n-word.

“Talking about race and doing anti-racist work is rooted in skill building. It’s not just about saying ‘don’t be racist.’ You have to start with how did we get here and how did we get here is practicing, listening intentionally, practicing having conversations with people, and practicing being uncomfortable. I would hope folks at Cabrini can work on being uncomfortable,” Akotaobi said.

Students were encouraged to talk amongst each other in small groups, and practice having conversations regarding race, no matter how uncomfortable.

“Hold yourself accountable for the impact, what that experience is, you can’t hold people accountable to a system that they are ignorant too, that they are not aware of, that they didn’t know about, we have to talk about it,” Akotaobi said.

Once the forum concluded, there were mixed reactions. Many felt that the facilitator was very educational and learned from the interactive activites, however the forum ran over the estimated time and students started to doze off.

“I thought it was educational but way too long…she had some pretty cool ideas to try and have us learn the information all sorts of different ways,” Jonathan Papp, sophomore marketing major, said.

Many students who attended the forum came with the intentions of learning and understanding more about race and language. However, other students thought that many attendees were not taking the forum seriously and “laughing during the facilitators presentation.”

“You could visibly see that most of the basketball team was not taking it seriously,” Broadnax said.

”I thought it was more than it needed to be, I believe SAAC as an organization could have met with BSU and figured out a better way to go about the situation rather than 150 student athletes. I think accidents happen and the way people reacted did not fit the ‘crime.’ Cabrini is known for its close knit relationships with everyone on campus therefore I feel like athletes were targeted in this incident. But we can all move forward from this and learn valuable lessons from many perspectives,” Ashley Tutzauer, junior basketball and soccer athlete, said.

After Tuesday’s forum, there are more discussions and events expected to happen on campus to continue to better inform the Cabrini community.

Thursday, Feb. 20, President Donald Taylor released a statement reflecting on the forum.

“Cabrini remains committed to providing educational tools and programming surrounding issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and we will continue to work with our student clubs, the Office of University Diversity Initiatives, and the entire campus community to provide inclusive forums and programing,” Taylor said.

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Amy Kodrich

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