by Jeremy Loffredo, Aaron Mayorga & Stephen Zubrycky
Contributor Writer, Editor & Editor-in-Chief
The Office of the Dean of Students has received multiple reports of bias incidents involving Manhattan College students, The Quadrangle has learned.
The Dean’s Office has confirmed that it has been investigating three incidents of bias that were reported by multiple students and one faculty member since November 2016.
“I had a professor approach me, who had a number of students approaching him saying they didn’t feel safe and that the climate has become very hostile,” Dean of Students Michael Carey, Ph.D. said.
The first report surfaced last November, after a student spotted a wooden paddle-like object with a racial slur, targeting African-Americans, inscribed on it.
“There was disgusting language on it, yeah,” Carey said. “It was seen. It wasn’t reported for a while. Once it was brought to our attention, we investigated, and the paddle no longer exists on campus. To the best of our knowledge, it’s been removed.”
A recent Facebook post by a student alleged that the paddle has been seen on campus once again this semester, but Carey assured that the object has been removed, and has not been sighted since last semester.
Carey also told The Quadrangle that the sanctions levelled against the object’s owner were far more severe than suggested in the Facebook post.
“I don’t advertise the sanctions I give to students, but I can definitely tell you, one of the things I explained to the RAs, was that [case] actually was dealt with immediately and the sanctions were much more than was posted… it’s inaccurate,” Carey said of the Facebook post, also referencing an emergency meeting Carey held with resident assistants on Tuesday.
More recently, additional reports have been submitted to the Dean’s Office, alleging that a Manhattan College student is in the possession of multiple pieces of Nazi or neo-Nazi paraphernalia.
“It’s been a couple of reports from students, so… if it’s one report or a couple reports, we’re still going to thoroughly investigate it,” Assistant Dean of Students Tiffany French said. “I can say that there are some students who are concerned, and we take that seriously.”
The Quadrangle was not able to confirm if the suspected student lives in the residence halls, or if the student is alleged to have engaged in any specific bias activities on campus. Regardless, Carey is looking into if this student can be sanctioned for actions even if they occurred off campus.
“The code of conduct, if you read it closely, applies to all individuals at all times while you’re a Manhattan College student,” Carey said. “I have adjudicated stuff that’s happened off campus before.”
Carey and French were not able to say if their office has approached the suspected student about these allegations.
Carey and French are also investigating if the alleged student with Nazi paraphernalia is connected with a photo from several years ago of a sign reading “Whites Only,” placed above a water fountain in Chrysostom Hall along with a photograph of Adolf Hitler.
Carey speculated that the photograph is from the Fall 2014 semester.
“The picture is from a couple years ago – it was never reported,” Carey said. “We’ve gone through every single one of our files. Nobody ever reported it.”
The Snapchat photograph of the sign was emailed to Carey about two weeks ago, and it prompted a series of mass emails to portions of the student body and faculty, as well as the emergency RA meeting.
“Our RAs are critical. You know, they’re a super talented group of students,” Carey said. “They’re the first line of defense in many ways, certainly with our residential population.”
The meeting was coupled with three mass emails sent to some students students and all faculty that day.
The first was sent by Carey to student leaders, (club presidents and members of student government) and faculty at 2:20 p.m. last Tuesday, just before he met with RAs.
Richard Satterlee, Ph.D., vice president of student life, followed with his own message to all students at 3:36 p.m. that same day, writing, “Above all, our heritage calls us to treat one another with respect, dignity and civility at all times.”
Martin A. Colucci, P.D., adjunct instructor of psychology, also added his own message to student leaders and faculty later that night at 8:51 p.m.
“We must not let the problematic behavior of a few fractious people to demean the ideology of Saint John Baptist De La Salle,” Colucci wrote.
Satterlee and Carey both partially see the string of reports as an outgrowth of the divisive and polarizing presidential campaign that concluded last November with the election of Donald J. Trump.
The incidents parallel other displays of tension and division on college campuses across the U.S., including violent protests at University of California at Berkeley last week. The protests shut down a lecture that was scheduled to be given by journalist Milo Yiannopoulos last Wednesday. Yiannopoulos writes for the far-right news and opinion website, Breitbart News.
The college’s administration is seeking to engage more directly with students, and to create programs that allow students to engage more directly with each other.
“I have to say that it’s been difficult because it feels like in some sense people would rather engage in bits, and 140 characters online, and we’ve been deliberate in these forums to get both sides of the political spectrum together to talk about it because I’ve heard directly from students from both sides [of the political spectrum], that they feel ostracized, unheard and disrespected,” Satterlee said.
Assistant Professor of Sociology Cory Blad, Ph.D., attributes the lack of student reporting of on-campus bias incidents to what he called a “culture of passivity” on campus.
“It’s probably tied to a couple different things, one, people generally don’t speak out when they witness these types of incidents, it’s actually something people probably want to avoid throughout the day,” Blad said. “When there’s an increase of incidents like this, it takes away the ability for anyone on campus to have their right to an education and their right to a safe campus.”
“Something needs to be done and [faculty] need to be at the forefront of what is done, and there is a lot of us that feel that exact same way,” Blad said.
To address this, the Division of Student Life introduced a new referral form on the Manhattan College website through which students can report incidents of harassment.
“It’s an easier way to make a referral, and there’s an anonymous possibility,” Carey said. “You don’t have to put your name on it, and it goes straight to Tiffany [French] and myself.”
The addition of the online form, according to an email sent by Carey in mid-January, was the result of “a year long external review” undertaken by the Campus Assessment Response and Evaluation (CARE) Team, which has met every Monday morning for the past seven years.
“If students don’t feel comfortable talking to me and they don’t want their name involved in it, I understand that, but they can actually report it to us [anonymously], and that helps us big time,” Carey said.
According to French, multiple reports have been submitted to the dean’s office anonymously through the new online form, which was launched in late January.
“We’re not going to tolerate it – bigotry, racism – it’s not happening,” Carey said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure it stops.”