Incidents of racial harassment spark outrage among the student body

Two racially motivated episodes are under investigation by the College.

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On Apr. 24, the student body received an email from Dean of Students Allison Williams regarding racist incidents that occurred within two hours of each other that directly impacted the Muhlenberg community. Williams described the incidents stating, “In the first incident, racial epithets were yelled from a car toward students of color walking across campus near Chew Street and Seegers Union. The second incident occurred at an off campus party where it is alleged that students were denied entrance based on their race and where at least one racial epithet was used in the interaction.”

Williams continued in her email by enforcing the College’s policies and standards. Williams declared that “Muhlenberg College’s values are fully grounded in the belief that all members of our community should be treated with dignity and respect across their many identities. The College will not tolerate harassing or discriminating behavior based on race or any other protected identity at any time.” In addition, Williams defined the consequences for such behavior saying, “Any person or group found responsible for violations of the College’s policies in this regard will be held accountable to the fullest extent. Please understand the seriousness of this message and ensure that your words and actions are in line with the values and policies of the College at all times.” 

The Muhlenberg Weekly reached out to Williams, asking for a further comment. Williams went into extensive detail on how the investigative process operates saying, “Our first job when a complaint comes in is to assign a trained college investigator to the case. That individual is responsible for reviewing the initial reports, gathering a list of witnesses, collecting any evidence (photos, texts, camera footage, electronic communications, artifacts, etc.) and interviewing witnesses in order to put together a comprehensive investigative report… Once an investigative report is complete, that report is sent to the Office of Student Conduct or the Office of Equity and Title IX to determine if formal charges will be rendered against a student or student group and so that the adjudication process can begin.”

Student Government Association President Zaire Carter ‘22 believes these kinds of incidents have profound effects on Muhlenberg’s students of color. “As Student Body President, I would hope that every student is appalled by these incidents. I know for a fact that these incidents have deeply impacted communities of color on campus. Clearly, I cannot speak on behalf of anyone, but I do have a feeling that people are disgusted, but unfortunately not surprised, which is what I find most horrific. Students of color have become used to these kinds of attacks that it almost becomes just another day. That is wrong. Fortunately, students of color are resilient and won’t allow those who are reckless, ignorant, and just blatantly racist destroy their spirit. Our community is stronger than such forces and will always fight back against injustice, no matter what form it takes,” said Carter. 

Assistant Professor of English and Africana Studies Emanuela Kucik, Ph.D. echoed Carter’s sentiments. “I wish I could say that racist incidents are surprising, but, unfortunately, they are not. In 2022, it should be utterly shocking that racial epithets could be hurled at students trying to enjoy a night out with their friends–that racial epithets would be hurled at all, at anyone. However, it is unsurprising because racism continues to permeate everything about our society; in fact, the most surprising aspect of it all is that some members of that same society deny this truth, which is precisely what allows it to remain a truth of our present and not only our past,” stated Kucik. 

Williams stated that the College takes such incidents incredibly seriously saying, “I can tell you that over the past four years, we have worked very hard with students, administrators and our national associations to strengthen the policies and sanctions related to harassment and discrimination at the College. Racial epithets targeted directly at a member of a protected class in our community are clear examples of harassment that may result in expulsion or suspension from the College.”

Kucik summarized her views on the matter saying, “I want to add, though, that just because racism is not surprising does not mean it is not devastating. It is devastating. It is infuriating. It is exhausting. It is violent. And it has to stop. If it continues, it will become one of the defining features of not just our past and present, but our future. We often discuss the continuation of racism in 2022 as though it is produced and allowed by an unidentifiable source, but we— human beings— are the source. We are the continuation. We are either the racism or the anti-racism. At Muhlenberg, we need to ensure that every single day, every single time, until we create a Muhlenberg and a world in which there is no next time, we choose anti-racism and actively refuse to allow poisonous incidents like these to have a place here.”

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