By Michelle Lampariello and Elizabeth Zakaim
Editor-In-Chief and Managing Editor
One week after an incident of racism occurred outside a residence hall, the campus community continues to question what can be done to develop a more inclusive atmosphere on campus.
A public forum at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 28 in Kendall Hall aims to address not only an incident involving racial slurs yelled at Marcus Allen, a junior African American studies and journalism and professional writing double major, but also as an open dialogue on tolerance and acceptance.
The event, which aims to continue the conversation about ways to improve the College’s efforts to foster an inclusive community, is cosponsored by Student Government, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.
On Monday, Nov. 26, Provost William Keep sent a message to faculty and staff at the College calling for the Dean of every academic school to reevaluate how to send the message that the campus community respects people of all races, religions, genders, abilities and ages.
“I am asking each Dean to convene a School/Library-wide meeting to discuss the role(s) we in Academic Affairs can play in making clear that TCNJ is a culture that respects all people,” Keep wrote. “Whether in a discussion seminar, science lab, doing group work, cleaning a bathroom, or exchanging emails, all members of our community deserve to have a respectful environment within which to work and study.”
Keep also mentioned his low tolerance for graffiti in the email, and stated that graffiti that depicts racist or discriminatory words or images should be reported immediately.
While Keep did not explicitly reference an incident of racist graffiti appearing on campus in his email, on Nov. 1, Campus Police was dispatched to the Art & Interactive Multimedia Building in response to a report of the derogatory term “n*****” written in a stall in the women’s bathroom on the third floor of the building.
A Building Services employee reported the graffiti when she saw it during her shift, and was particularly upset by the sighting of the derogatory term because this was not the first time she had experienced discrimination on campus, citing a similar incident of derogatory graffiti that was reported to Campus Police two years ago.
Campus Police reviewed security footage of the third floor women’s bathroom in the AIMM building, but do not have any suspects in their investigation.
College President Kathryn A. Foster released an email emphasizing the need for inclusion and diversity on campus on Nov. 17.
Allen tweeted early Saturday morning about how students on campus yelled racial slurs at him from their residence hall on Nov. 16
“I am truly disheartened by this incident,” his initial tweet read.
Foster stressed that the school does not tolerate instances of racial bias or any other forms of discrimination targeted toward any population in the community.
“Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, abilities, and other differences enrich the TCNJ community, are fundamental to our values of universal inclusion, and demonstrate the rich diversity of our broader society,” Foster’s email read. “Individual behaviors of bias, incivility and disrespect undermine what it means to study, teach and work at TCNJ. We value the very characteristics that some have chosen to demean.”
Allen recalled in more detail what happened to him on Nov. 16 at around 11:30 p.m. He was walking to Tdubs with other friends and fellow members of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, when he thought he heard shouting coming from the third floor of Wolfe Hall.
He said he couldn’t tell what they were saying at first, but he eventually understood that the words were racial slurs targeted toward him and his friends.
“N*****, n*****, n*****, you’re a porch monkey n*****,” he heard the people yell.
When Allen moved closer to identify where the sound was coming from, he heard them continue to exclaim slurs.
“‘Get down, those n*****s are gonna shoot us,’” Allen heard.
He and his friends went to report to Wolfe Hall’s community adviser on duty, who went to the third floor to investigate. According to Allen, the students were walking back and forth from room to room, and no one claimed ownership of the room where he heard the slurs coming from.
Later that night, a little before midnight, Allen turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent his feelings. He said he felt Foster was prompted to send her email after his tweets because he knew that a lot of faculty and administration follow him on social media.
“I’m glad the school is taking the steps that are needed in this situation but I know this is not an isolated incident,” Allen said. “I’m not the only person on campus who does not feel welcome here, who does not feel safe.”
Allen could not specify which incidents he was referring to that may have occurred at the College where students felt unsafe, but said that he heard of such instances from other students who did not want them reported.
Allen, who grew up in Ewing and now lives in Trenton, considered himself to be a voice for the local community. He is hurt and feels unsafe at a school where he has invested so much of his time effort.
The past couple of days have been an emotional roller coaster for him as he has been processing what happened.
“Honestly it was a shock,” he said. “I’ve cried, I’ve been depressed and I’ve been angry. It’s traumatizing for any person of color to deal with –– specifically a black person.”
Professors at the College responded to Allen’s tweets with messages of support.
Kim Pearson, a journalism and professional writing professor at the College, expressed her sympathies. She had not only had Allen as a student, but she wrote on Twitter that she had known him since he was a baby.
Pearson, who is a longtime faculty member at the College, said she is tired of hearing about incidents like Allen’s in her 28 years here.
“I’m horrified, but I’m also kind of weary,” she said. “I’ve seen this movie before.”
“For many decades the TCNJ culture has provided a safe and enriching environment, the benefits of which continue long after a student graduates,” Foster wrote in her email. “Together we will protect and enhance this valuable culture and commit again to dignity and respect for all.”