Inequality on campus provokes change

by Lam Ho

Recently, there have been some rumors about discrimination on campus that may unnerve and anger both students and administration. A handful of anonymous sources have revealed their experiences with the prejudice undertones in numerous social interactions on campus.

On August 30, the flag representing the LGBT community on campus hung outside of the Gender and Sexual Diversity House (Emery Hall) was vandalized. One person who frequents Emery Hall also revealed that the vandalizer made obscene comments toward residents during the act. Afterward, Dean Eric Hartman sent a cstudent titled “Vandalism” to iterate, “Ecce quam bonum does not have parameters. It is inclusive and calls us to live in unity, which means joined together in harmony. It is not enough to simply do no harm, we must also, whenever possible, prevent harm from occurring.”

Another source revealed a conflict that occurred over Family Weekend. A Latin-American student at a fraternity house was waiting for a friend to pick her up when she was approached by a fellow party-goer. He was allegedly intoxicated when he called her a “spic” (an ethnic slur referring to a Spanish-speaking person) and told her to leave the party. Offended by the young man’s language, the Latin-American student argued with him, expressing her opposition to his behavior. An older party-goer (possibly related to the younger one) then neared the two and, as the situation escalated, spat in the young woman’s face.

Every weekend, Bacchus drivers witness incidents that range from funny to disturbing. One student driver was willing to share her experiences. She says a young man boarded the Bacchus with some friends. When he saw the driver, he said, “Oh, there’s a nigger driving the van.” The driver, attempting to keep the situation calm, did not react outwardly and instead chose to drive the young man home, in spite of the discomfort of the circumstances. “There was a certain tone I felt. I didn’t feel wanted there,” she remembers.

Another disturbing component of her job is hearing crass remarks from the front seat. “There are men talking about women like they are trash. And each night when I’m working, I see at least one pair made of a relatively sober male with a very drunk female… It looks dangerous.” According to her, each weekend for the past two years has held the similar disturbing scenarios. Zack Loehle (C’17) provided some commentary on how he believes situations like these are an example of why there is a need for acceptance of people who are not only of different ethnic backgrounds, but people who align themselves with unique sexualities. “On a personal level, people should make a point to be more open-minded.”

Racial slurs, homophobic comments, and sexist remarks reveal that prejudice is not isolated to one group, then. “The beginning [to equality] is multicultural groups and partnerships with other organizations.” In one way, the Pushing the Limits talk hosted by the African American Association (AAA) opened the door opened such discussions. The intention of such events is to make the community more comfortable with those of other backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. Professor Bardi, the moderator of the Pushing the Limits discussion, has a class (Psychology of Human Diversity) that aims to open students’ minds regarding differences between Sewanee students. In this way, the curriculum encourages students to work toward a mission revolving around EQB: dwelling together in unity and, ultimately, an all-encompassing attitude toward community.

When asked about reasonable resolutions to the recent incidents, the Bacchus driver replied,“People should know about it. It shouldn’t be looked at like something that does not exist.” One anonymous source says, “Things calm down and there are band-aids given, then it starts over again.” As Loehle echoes, the way to stop the open displays of disapproval lies in more than creating rules, but calls for a dialogue about the underlying racism, sexism, or homophobia that can be remedied. One source even suggested that there should be a social Honor Code in place.

“Sewanee is not a racist place… But your society and your environment affect the way you perform. It’s great here, but to reach our fullest potential, we need to make it better,” a fourth source says. In order to reach the highest potential possible, then, some students suggest that Sewanee students, faculty, and staff should create an open, welcoming environment to discussions based on this communal shortcomings. A first step to this is the link to report racial incidents (http://life.sewanee.edu/live/reporting-an-incident).

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