A month-long feud between staff and administrators at a faculty and color staff at Queens College has erupted after a racist message was found written on a campus bulletin board. Some professors, staff and students say campus leaders were reluctant to respond to their demands for new security measures and mental health support, which – despite some significant victories – made them feel burned and frustrated. Administrators say their response to the incident was thorough and immediate.
“The administration has made it clear that it really hopes it will go away and we will stop pushing the issue,” said Natania Duncan, director of African Studies and an associate professor of history at Queen’s College. “They are treating us like dogs with bones.”
Duncan and his colleagues are still aware of an incident when a staff member shouted “Kekeke Lives!” Discovered. And a swastika has been carved on the corkboard at Delaney Hall on January 6, the one-year anniversary of the riots in the US Capitol. Duncan also received an anonymous, threatening phone call on his cellphone later that month calling him a “dog” and using racial slurs.
Delaney Hall, named after a black former professor of psychology, has the college’s Afrikaans study program; Center for Ethnic, Ethnic and Religious Understanding; And the Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK) program, a scholarship and academic support program designed to recruit and retain low-income students. Lloyd Delaney, the building’s name, was the first black director of the SEEK program.
Duncan described Delaney Hall on the City University campus in New York as a “safe haven for marginalized groups.”
Jeremy Davies, chief diversity officer and dean of diversity at Queen’s College, said of the vandalism via email: “This situation requires priority focus and constant attention.” The ongoing and transparent discussions between the administration and colleagues at Delaney Hall indicate the acceptance of the Queen’s College administration’s concerns and suggestions for improvement. “
The incident has left Duncan and other staff at Delaney feeling insecure and concerned about the safety of students scheduled to return to campus later that month for the start of the spring semester.
Sophia McGee, former founding director of the college’s Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding, said campus leaders do not fully understand the depth of concern between faculty and staff members working at Delaney Hall. She is currently working as a director of intercultural student engagement and dialogue for the CUNY system.
He noted that violent attacks, such as the recent shootings that targeted black people in a Buffalo, NY, supermarket, often followed racist remarks and insults.
“I think what’s missing in this whole thing is how it happened and the whole context of where we were as a country, not just hate speech, but actual action, with an increasing rate of extremely violent action,” he said. “There seems to be a small gap between hate speech and actual provocation at this moment compared to other times in history. We actually felt it was a direct threat. “
President of Queen’s College Frank H. U responded to the hate message in an email sent across campus on January 7, informing the campus of the incident and saying that the college “stands firm against racism, sexism, bigotry and religious intolerance of any kind.”
A statement from Davies followed a few days later that confirmed campus security officials had begun an investigation. He also reached out to the staff member who first saw the vandalism and some program leaders at Delaney Hall to meet about the incident.
“These signs and symbols hurt people who are understandably disturbed and deserve our strong support,” he said.
Multiple meetings between faculty members and college administrators and back-and-forth email messages were initiated. The managers of Duncan and the building’s other two programs, along with other colleagues, emailed a letter to Wu and Davies on Jan. 11 urging them to “apply precisely to the security measures for Delaney Hall residents and the premises.” The faculty and staff union at CUNY, the Professional Staff Congress, also known as PSC-CUNY, has thrown its support behind the workers’ group and in a letter in January called for more action from the administrators on their behalf.
A zoom meeting between faculty and staff members at U and Delaney Hall On 13 January the group again dissatisfied.
Administrators did not provide any information on “what the protocol is going to be, what security measures will be added to the building, what the investigation is,” said Norca Blackman-Richards, director of the SEEK program.
Subsequent public statements from campus leaders reassured that the Public Safety Office had alerted the New York Police Department’s community affairs officers to the incident. But Duncan said a call was made to the NYPD, then visited in the vicinity in mid-February, without an official report from the college. Davies said in an email that he “verbally reported disgusting scrolls” to the NYPD a few days after the public safety chief graffiti was discovered, but submitted a more formal report to the NYPD later in February.
Confused by the missing police report, and dissatisfied with the college’s progress in providing extra security for the building, Delaney sent a list of requests from campus leaders and faculty on 22 February. They called on administrators to bring in “a skilled BIPOC” team of “ethnic trauma aid” students and staff to help process the incident, promote a clear timeline for investigations and establish security patrols around parking lots around the building, and access to panic buttons and a key-card. System to install, among other security measures. The letter also highlighted the infrastructural problems of the building. Duncan described the stairs as “crumbling” so that two students were injured when they slipped on them.
Administrators visited Delaney Hall in March. The Office of Compliance and Diversity also held an event in April as part of a speaker series featuring a conversation between Wu, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, and Marley Evers-Williams, followed by two breakout discussions, one focusing on Delaney Hall vandalism. . But staff at Delaney Hall weren’t consulted on the event’s plans, and many were unable to attend, so only a handful came to discuss, Duncan said.
“How are you doing a meeting or an event centered on a crisis that affects us without involving us, involving us?” Duncan said.
Meanwhile, some students got scared after the graffiti incident. Braneda Pierre, a freshman on the SIC program, said she felt insecure when she returned to campus and that another student had told her about the vandalism.
“I don’t feel safe anymore,” he said. “I will come to school and feel at peace and be happy with the people around me. I think it should give me a sense of community, where I feel safe and I want to. It hurts. “
Delaney Hall’s faculty and staff members have since met many of their demands. Campus security has stepped up public security patrols around the building and installed cameras around the perimeter. A security guard was deployed in front of the building in early March, and a key-card entry system is in the process of being installed, Davies said. The lighting in and around the building has recently been upgraded, and the president plans to prioritize Delaney for infrastructure evaluations and updates, he said. Faculty and staff members are now being interviewed as part of the investigation into the incident, and U held a zoom meeting last week with students, faculty, staff and union members concerned about the vandalism.
Davies stressed that resolving the concerns of faculty and staff members has been a priority for the administration.
“Queen’s College explicitly rejects racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry on our campus,” he said. “The hate marks on Delaney Hall’s bulletin board were racist and anti-Semitic and a clear and direct violation of our community and campus values. No one in our community has the right to provoke fear or anger or to vandalize or desecrate our buildings. ”
He noted that the campus is the first person in the CUNY system to be appointed as Chief Diversity Officer and Dean of Diversity. The college also has public safety officers who are undergoing antibiotic training, and the current administration has set up three working groups of students, faculty and staff members from different backgrounds to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the college.
Charles HF Davis, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Michigan who has worked on campus climate assessment for more than a decade, said it was common for students and faculty members affected by the racist incident to feel that campus leaders were not responding quickly. Enough.
“Institutional bureaucracy, at its best and worst, takes longer than the victims can afford,” he said.
He noted that colleges and universities also often lack clear protocols for responding to racist incidents, which can slow down the response process.
“The first and foremost step is to determine what the protocol of action is going to be and to be respectful of what needs to be expressed,” he said. He stressed that “administrators need to listen when people tell them what’s going on and go back to them as experts in their own experience.”
He added that they need to ensure a “fine balance” so that the victims themselves are not overburdened by the implementation of all solutions.
Blackman-Richards believes the drawn-out process has demoralized Delaney’s staff, but he left a meeting between the administrator and faculty and staff last week to assume that everyone was engaged in a “respectable” dialogue.
“I’m hopeful that what it takes for campus to work with equity and what it means to include all voices can open their eyes to reality,” he said.
Others are not feeling optimistic. Pierre, a student in the SEEK program, attended the meeting with the president but was not heard from.
“I personally feel like we’re just moving around in circles,” he said. “I don’t think the students asked anything, he really answered. She was just there to answer questions and go about her day. I don’t know what to expect. I just think I need something off. I just wanted to know if anyone was with us and realized we were going through something. “