Kendal Santiago, Staff Writer
In spite of it’s dedication to being a diverse community, Utica College was forced to acknowledge underlying cultural issues on campus when a series of hate crimes against the Black, Latinx and LGBTQ communities were committed during the Spring 2017 semester.
In mid-February, rumors of hate speech written in Bell Hall shocked the student body. A student(s), who remain unidentified, wrote racial and homophobic slurs on the staircase and elevator walls.
Not only were students surprised by the actions of this unknown individual, but they were also surprised by the college’s response.
Once notified, campus safety officers covered the graffiti and the UC community was not notified until days later.
Wayne Sullivan, the director of campus safety, admits to the faults in the office’s response.
However, there were no ill intentions regarding their actions.
“Our officers immediately covered it up because it was offensive,” Sullivan said. “They didn’t want students to see that.”
Sullivan has now instructed officers to not cover up the hate speech in the unfortunate event that it happens again. He believes this was a “hate crime” and it should be treated as such.
“It’s a crime scene as far as I’m concerned,” Sullivan said.
UC President Laura Casamento also admitted to the administration’s mistakes when handling the first incident.
“It took us four or five days before we actually communicated with the entire campus,” Casamento said. “That was a mistake and we’ve learned from that.”
Senior Alexia Colacicco, who was a Resident Assistant in Bell Hall when the incident occurred, expressed her disappointment in the initial response.
“An email isn’t enough,” Colacicco explained. “You have to show that you aren’t OK with this.”
Colacicco, who identifies as Black and White, was both shocked and disappointed by the incident.
“I don’t want to live in a place where I feel unwelcomed,” Colacicco said. “That’s not the ideal experience that one has in mind.”
However, Colacicco agrees that the college had a much better response towards the second incident.
Casamento expressed that the school was so fixated on trying to catch the perpetrator that they did not engage with the campus as much as they should have.
However, when the second incident occurred in Burrstone Hall, just a week before finals, the college took a much more efficient approach.
“I was in the residence hall the next day talking with students and following up with an immediate campus conversation,” Casamento stated.
It was at the community conversation where faculty gave students a chance to express themselves and offer ideas to help reaffirm the college’s stance against prejudice and bigotry.
As a result of the community conversation, on Aug. 30, hundreds of students and faculty came together for a “Unity Walk.”
The purpose of the walk was to be a celebration of diversity as well as a clear message that bigotry of any form is not welcomed at Utica College.
“We can’t stop someone from taking a Sharpie marker and writing a hateful thing on the wall,” Casamento expressed. “But, what we did the other day was send a very strong message that this is a united community and if you are going to be an individual that acts in hateful ways this isn’t the place for you.”
Members of UC are actively planning to continue to break barriers and tackle ignorance through continued community conversations, incorporating diverse discussion into the classrooms, as well as, attempting to create a more culturally diverse faculty.
Students are encouraged to join representatives of administration, in addition to faculty and staff in early September to discuss strategies on how to combat the campuses issues with cultural diversity.
As for the perpetrator, the $2,000 reward still stands for whoever can identify this person.