Even as the University Increases Awareness of Diversity and Inclusion,
Some Students use Social Media to Share Incidents of Discrimination
By: Maria Giovanna Jumper
As our country faces continuing Black Lives Matter protests in response to police brutality, we are reminded of the everyday discrimination that students at Adelphi experience. Recently students have been sharing their stories via social media and other platforms, stories of discrimination by some professors and other students; and their messages contain both pain and frustration.
In September, the university became aware of these comments and stories shared on social media, as well as those shared in forums hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, according to Sentwali Bakari, vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students. He said that under President Christine Riordan’s leadership, which began in 2015, Adelphi has made anti-racism a major priority and has moved to do even more in light of everything going on, including student concerns, but also the incidents around the country, the Black Lives Matter movement, and “a deeply held value of
Pictured is flyer used to promote a Residence working for diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Hall program about diversity and inclusion earlier
earlier this year. Students say the use of Curious
George is an example of institutionalized racism.
Photo from @javariousr on Instagram.
On Sept. 16, President Riordan sent out an email and shared a video on social media about the university’s steps moving forward to combat racism on campus. In her email, she stated: “I want you to know that I am committed to changing the systems that perpetuate racism, sexism, discrimination, bias and inequity in our culture, as well as in our policies and procedures. With your support, we can make this happen and hopefully become a model for others to do the same.”
Included in her email was an “intentional anti-racism agenda,” “the 2020-2021 priorities for Adelphi’s broader diversity, equity, and inclusion goals with actions, metrics and timelines,” and information to contact “diversity, equity and inclusion-focused task forces, councils or committees.”
Yet many students feel it is too little too late. Students have shared examples of Resident Assistant programs about diversity and inclusion that displayed pictures of Curious George on their flyers, or students getting away with using the n-word when speaking to or about Black students on campus.
Ja’Various Rogers, a member of the class of 2021, has taken to social media to share his experiences of discrimination on campus.
“Once I was asked by a professor, ‘Did your mom know when she named you this that you would be less likely to get good jobs?’” he said.
During his junior year at Adelphi, Rogers completed an internship in Washington, DC. Before leaving he said he was told by a professor, “to lose my ‘blackcent (Louisiana accent) before I go because I enunciated words differently than the people in New York.”
Additionally, Rogers said he doesn’t feel the university does enough to support social movements. “They send out campus-wide emails explaining that they support them… but that's it. What good does just an email do?”
Other students have also shared their stories through more anonymous platforms. A new Instagram page has been started called Black while attending AU (blackatau). The Instagram page has made a total of 12 posts so far, but has gained 341 followers, consisting of current and alumni students.
The Instagram bio states, “Here to discuss the institutional racism at Adelphi University. Black Student Run, Black Student Managed.” They have posted information on reporting Adelphi to the FBI for hate crimes on campus, accusing the university of not complying with Title IX and have posted anonymous student stories. Students are hoping that these new initiatives will help create an equitable university community. Their messages indicate they don’t feel as if their voices are being heard. They didn’t respond to this reporter’s attempt to interview them.
In response to their postings, during an interview with The Delphian, Bakari said “"The University has always listened to our students and investigated allegations of discrimination that are brought to our attention. No member of the Adelphi community should be subjected to racial bias or any form of discrimination. The experiences being shared are being heard loud and clear and actions are being taken to address them both internally and externally.”
He added, “While social media is one avenue for sharing experiences, we strongly encourage our students and other members of the community to make a formal report or complaint through Title IX, Public Safety or my office, Student Life, so that we can address, follow-up, support and investigate in a more constructive manner."
Responding to students who had said their experiences were either not handled correctly or not reported, James Perrino, the executive vice president of finance and administration, sent out an email on Sept. 30. The email read in part: “The University is engaging an external firm to conduct an operational audit of how we address complaints from Adelphi community members. This thorough, unbiased review will offer a critical analysis of how all formal reports are handled through various offices on campus, including (but not limited to) Title IX, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, and the Department of Public Safety and Transportation.”
There will be special consideration for Title IX cases. According to the email the audit is meant to evaluate how complaints are received, investigated, coordinated with other offices, evaluated and resolved. The email also provides the offices for appropriate channels for reporting instances of discrimination.
On this, Bakari said, “Our intention is to ensure that we are following best practices and have in place a process that is thorough, including a feedback loop that communicates with the complainant regarding the acknowledgement, status and resolution of their complaint.
“Another thing I’d say is that some of the anger and confusion is related to not knowing the results of all formal complaints and the resulting process,” he continued. “While the processes for evaluating complaints made via Public Safety, Title IX Office or Student Conduct are transparent, the investigations, reviews and results remain confidential, for the privacy we all expect either as a victim or alleged perpetrator and also in compliance with federal laws.”
Bakari added, “We remind the Adelphi community that our conduct process is intended to be transformational, seeking to educate and develop students along their maturation process while repairing any harm with an array of interventions and sanctions including dismissal.”
As The Delphian reported in the Sept. 14 issue, the new Equitable Adelphi Action Team, which includes student members, can help mitigate the concerns expressed by the students sharing their experiences on social media. It’s a student-centered council that will provide the University with recommended action steps and suggested strategies for how our community can address and combat racism and other forms of oppression, implicit biases and micro-aggressions. If you are interested in joining, email firstname.lastname@example.org.