Campus community searches for diversity initiatives at student-organized forum

By Staff Writer
March 20, 2003

Nina Scimenes

Questions of what can be done next to help the campus community move on from the hate-speech incident in Xavier Hall on Friday, Feb. 7, was the focus of the “Moving Away from Hate and Fear” forum held on Monday, March 17, in the Grace Hall boardroom.

Senior Geronna Lewis approached Myrna Grandgenett, special assistant to the President for mission integration, and Shirley Dixon, coordinator of diversity initiatives, after experiencing personal frustration with a prior forum addressing this issue that was held on Tuesday, March 11 in the Xavier Hall Great Room. “Personally, I left it up to Cabrini to handle the situation and was disappointed by the forum,” Lewis said.

With the support of Grandgenett and Dixon, Lewis, who is also the president of the Ethnic Student Alliance, organized this forum to continue the conversation regarding the hate speech incident.

“We’re here to respect each others opinions and not to judge others,” Lewis said, laying down some ground rules for the forum. “Just speak your truth, because that’s what we’re about,” Grandgenett added.

Once Dr.. Christine Lysionek, vice president of student development, reiterated the details of the hate speech incident, the microphone was opened up to student comments in order to address the issues of their concern.

Students immediately began to question the coverage of the incident by the media, which included Loquitur and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Speculation also arose that Mike Quickel, resident director of Xavier, allegedly told residents of Xavier not to let word of the incident leave Xavier walls or Cabrini’s campus, for Public Relation reasons.

Questions about the lack of police involvement also sparked debate within the boardroom. “Once the police are called, the situation is then out of [Cabrini’s] control,” President Antoinette Iadarola said.

Junior Jesse Gluckman immediately responded to the President’s comment. “Where does Cabrini get off making their own laws about when it comes to calling the cops?”

Rachel Slaughter, writing center specialist, originally introduced this topic into the conversation. “There are things you can do in your community when these types of things occur. Call the cops, talk to people in charge, look at the history,” Slaughter said. She continued to explain that examining the history at Cabrini when dealing with similar incidents would help the current generation understand how to approach the issue so that a solution can be found and preventative measures can be developed.

A consensus of fear is growing among the campus community, according to those in attendance at the forum. Concern was generated about those involved with the hate speech incident going unpunished or not being properly prosecuted for their actions. “Kicking people off campus will not solve this problem on the campus. We need to fix the diversity on the campus, period,” freshman Jenna Mayo said.

Many also appear to fear the possibility of a physical attack on a student, since the corrupt behavior on campus seems to be increasing with time. “Steps being taken to protect [the offenders] are making others feel unsafe,” senior Alyson Caro said.

Dr. Harold William Halbert, English and communications professor, questioned Cabrini students’ “playground code of ethics.” Many are reluctant to report their peers when they know the identities of those involved. “This is not a narc situation,” Halbert said.

Students, as well as faculty and staff, presented possible solutions to improve the diversity and race relations at Cabrini. Suggestions ranged from forums about the Civil Rights Movement or the Holocaust, to developing a student organization that will focus on addressing such topics and involving the campus in progressing towards diversity initiatives. Ideas such as these are a result of the seemingly lack of affect on some students and the feeling of powerlessness by some minorities, according to students at the forum.

“On behalf of all those that were affected, I want to apologize for the actions that were committed in Xavier. I am really sorry it had to happen,” sophomore Michelle Ward said. “We should start respecting others that are different from us.”

The forum concluded with a speech made by Iadarola, in which she expressed her pride in the 11 percent increase of minority enrollment within the past six years. Grandgenett then invited people to sign up for a committee that would work towards alleviating the current problem and brainstorming ways that the campus can become more diversified.

Another forum, sponsored by the history and political science department, addressing the history of hate symbols is scheduled for Thursday, March 20 at 12:30 p.m., in the Grace Hall boardroom. However, following this announcement, a student made a final complaint about the scheduling of such forums, which conflict with students’ class schedules. It was suggested that those who organize these events should put forth an effort to work around persons who show interest in these types of affairs.

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