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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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St. Joe’s handling of racist slur called ‘bullsh-t’

Taylor+Stokes+%E2%80%9922+listens+to+her+peers+speak+at+a+BSU+forum+responding+to+racism+on+campus.+Alyvia+Benson+%E2%80%9922+%28left%29+and+Camille+Lodugnon+%E2%80%9922+%28right%29+sit+behind+her.+PHOTO%3A+LUKE+MALANGA+%E2%80%9920%2FTHE+HAWK
Taylor Stokes ’22 listens to her peers speak at a BSU forum responding to racism on campus. Alyvia Benson ’22 (left) and Camille Lodugnon ’22 (right) sit behind her. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

Two months after a white student rearranged letters on the felt board on their Villiger Residence Center room door, spelling a racial slur, Alyvia Benson ’22 and Camille Lodugnon ’22 remain disappointed with how the university handled the incident.

A felt letter board, which was on the door of African-American students’ room, with words rearranged by a white student, spelling a racial slur

On Nov. 28, The Hawk published a story entitled “Racial slur left on students’ dorm room door,” detailing Benson and Lodugnon’s discovery of the word “coons” on their door. As reported, the women and their families were unhappy with the Community Standards process and the apparent lack of punishment for the student.

“For the administration to not take the right action and deal with it the correct way is what frustrates me the most,” Benson said.

On Nov. 29, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., sent students, faculty, staff and alumni an email entitled “A Message of Tolerance.” The email did not directly address the incident in Villiger.

Reed said in the email, “While I may not address our community each time there is the report of an incident, I am always aware, involved, and feel many of the emotions so many of you express: disappointment, confusion, frustration and a desire to make immediate change.”

The Hawk reached out to Reed for further comment on the incident itself, but he did not respond.

While the email was sent to the entire St. Joe’s community, Benson and Lodugnon were angry the email did not explicitly mention what happened to them.

Lodugnon said she would have rather Reed not said anything at all than what he did.

“I thought it was bullsh—t,” Lodugnon said. “The fact that the whole email was about tolerance was pretty stupid to me, because why should I have to tolerate someone putting a racial slur on my door? Why should anyone have to tolerate anything offensive on their door?”

According to both Benson and Lodugnon, Reed has not reached out to them, or their families, at any point in the process.

Benson’s mother, Alysia Benson, said she repeatedly emailed and called the president’s office to discuss the incident.

Alysia Benson, Alyvia Benson’s mom, addresses Cary Anderson at a forum addressing racism on campus hosted by the Black Student Union on Dec. 3. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA/THE HAWK

“I thought that this warranted some kind of phone call from the university president,” said Benson’s mother, Alysia Benson. “I’m disappointed in how the university handled this.”

Benson’s mother said she was disappointed with the Community Standards process as well as Cary Anderson, Ed.D., associate provost and vice president for Student Life, for his conduct in a Nov. 12 meeting.

According to both Benson and Lodugnon, who also attended that Nov. 12 meeting, Anderson used the word n-word in full twice, once using the ending “a” and once using the ending “er.”

“He could have explained it without saying the n-word,” Lodugnon said. “He could have just said the n-word with the ‘er’ and the n-word with the ‘a.’ He didn’t actually have to say the word.”

Anderson released a written statement to The Hawk regarding his use of the word.

“In a broader discussion about campus culture, in an attempted of express [sic] my disappointment with the use of racist language around campus, I described student use of the N-word ending in R being replaced with the N-word ending in A,” Anderson wrote. “The actual words were described, and I have apologized for doing so.”

The Nov. 12 meeting was the only meeting Benson’s mother had with university officials.

“When he was saying how he’s uncomfortable with that word, it was just funny to me because he used it to tell us how uncomfortable he was,” Benson’s mother said.

Benson said she was shocked.

“I was also annoyed because I know he’s a grown man who should know not to say this in front of two African-American students that are going through that situation,” Benson said.

In the days that followed the publication of The Hawk article, both women said they were surprised by the support from fellow students and some faculty.

“I thought there was going to be a lot of people saying that it wasn’t the school’s fault,” Lodugnon said. “It was really nice to have a lot of people as upset about what happened as we were.”

Camille Lodugnon ’22 (left) and Alyvia Benson ’22 (right) sit next to each other at the BSU forum. PHOTO: LUKE MALANGA ’20/THE HAWK

The women also heard from other students of color who had experienced racism on campus.

“There’s so many incidents like ours,” Lodugnon said. “The only difference is that ours was in the newspaper. It’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s not the first time the school has pushed it under the rug.”

As previously reported by The Hawk, Benson and Lodugnon both asked Cary Anderson, Ed.D., associate provost and vice president of Student Life, for the student in question not to be allowed on their floor in Villiger.

On Nov. 27, Anderson notified the women that their request was granted and that they should notify Public Safety, Residence Life or Anderson if the student is on their floor.

That hasn’t helped Benson’s overall sense of security.

“This was my number one school coming in,” Benson said. “To me everything that’s happened from then until now, it definitely makes me feel like I would want to transfer in the future. I feel like if this happened to me, what worse could have happened and the school would have tried to cover it up?”

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