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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

“Racial bias” incidents reported in dorms again

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PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

The student in this story who was called the N-word numerous times is identified by their initials. The student spoke on the record, but The Hawk chose not to use their full names in order to mitigate potential racial backlash.

Two racial bias incidents were reported in first-year residence halls on March 31 and April 4, according to St. Joe’s Office of Public Safety.

At about 11 p.m. on April 4, David Andrews ’22 was in his room in Sourin Residence Center when he heard loud music playing in the suite next to his. White students who live in the adjacent suite were singing the N-word in a song, he said, and minutes later, the students were using the N-word in casual conversation.

“I banged on the wall [knocking three times] and said, ‘Yo, watch your mouth. Don’t say that,’ Andrews said. “They then replied ‘No, n—-r.’”

Andrews said he left the room to find a witness. After consulting with a suitemate, Andrews got his RA. Andrews said he repeated the same knocking on the wall twice so his RA could hear what the students were saying through the wall.

“I then bang on the wall again three more times, and the suite adjacent to us then replies, ‘Yo, this n—-r’s banging on our wall three times. It must be important,’” Andrews said.

Andrews’ RA verified that Andrews reported the incident to him. Andrews’ RA confirmed he was told that Andrews has heard the students say the N-word a number of times before.

Andrews’ case, which is currently under investigation after the RA facilitated reporting of the incident, will go through the judicial process through the Office of Community Standards.

This process includes a preliminary meeting, a three-person panel hearing and an outcome meeting, according to Cary Anderson, Ed.D., associate provost and vice president of Student Life.

Two of the four white first-year male students documented as being in the adjacent suite the night of the incident are student-athletes.

“The University is currently investigating the allegation,” Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner, J.D., said in an email to The Hawk. “The Department of Athletics is not responsible for or even involved in such investigations (and nor should we be); therefore, I am currently awaiting the conclusion of the investigation. Regardless of the outcome, we have and will continue to educate our student-athletes and facilitate dialogue about the unacceptable use of racially insensitive and offensive language.”

According to Bodensteiner, it is important that athletic administrators and coaches not get involved in allegations of misconduct.

“Every university employs professionals who are trained to provide support,
investigate, adjudicate and implement outcomes,” Bodensteiner said in a follow-up email. “Those people are not and should not be in Athletics. If someone does approach me alleging misconduct by a student-athlete, I will immediately refer them to the appropriate university reporting mechanism and will also report it myself.”

Andrews said casual use of racial slurs by white students is something he has been hearing since September through the thin walls of Sourin, but this is the first time he reported it.

“I was scared to come out, I was scared to speak up,” Andrews said. “I’m not sure if the school was accepting, or was going to be on my side, or would even trust what I’m saying. Me versus 78% white, the odds are not in my favor.”

The morning after the April 4 incident, Andrews went to see Natalie Walker Brown, director for Student Inclusion and Diversity.

“I told [Walker Brown] this had been going on, but I just never actually spoke up about it like that, never told Public Safety, the RAs,” Andrews said. “Just always kept it to myself.”

After the mishandling of a racial bias incident as reported by The Hawk last semester, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., sent out an email on Dec. 10 outlining action steps the university was taking to respond to concerns students raised during an open forum and a subsequent Board of Trustees protest. One of those steps was retaining “an independent, third-party consultant to review our current Community Standards process and make recommendations, based in best practice, about this process going forward.”

According to an April 9 email from Reed, the revised Community Standards process now includes all bias cases being heard by a three-person panel, rather than a single hearing officer. The university has obtained a third-party consultant to review the Community Standards process.

“The University responds to reports of bias by providing support to those who are affected by the act of bias while concurrently investigating and ultimately adjudicating the matter by using the Community Standards Board,” Mary Elaine Perry, Ed.D., Title IX coordinator, said in an email to The Hawk. “The University cannot comment on specific incidents, but we categorically denounce bias related conduct.”

As was the case with Andrews for many months, not all students choose to report incidents of bias they experience.

During her first semester at St. Joe’s, A. A. ’22 said she was called the N-word three times, but she never reported the incidents.

“I think they [white students] see it as not a big deal because black people have associated with the word, as in try to change the meaning of the word,” A.A. said. “Because so many rappers, majority of black rappers, have been using the N-word, they think, ‘Oh, cause it’s in a song, I can say it.’ You wouldn’t want me to say something disrespectful about your race, your identities, so then you shouldn’t say something disrespectful. Even if it’s just in a song, you shouldn’t say that at all. Period.”

But for Andrews, this incident was a continuation of racial ignorance he saw last semester.

“I would then come back to my suite after [last semester’s] meetings and hear the suite adjacent to me talking about it, saying, ‘Yo, them n—as really think something’s going to be done? Them n—as really think the school’s going to be on their side?’” Andrews said.

Andrews said he wishes he had spoken up before the April 4 incident.

“After this going on the first semester, and me finally speaking up about it now, I’m just mad at myself for not saying anything sooner,” Andrews said. “Throughout this whole school year, I’ve been called derogatory names, just been pointed at, laughed at, anything, all for the color of my skin.”

Four days before Andrews reported his incident of bias, another bias incident was reported in Villiger Residence Center. Kai Amen-Ra ’22 was walking down the hallway to his Villiger room when a white male student walking in the other direction said, “You’re a bitch-ass n—a.”

For Amen-Ra, this was the first time he had been called a racial slur.

“I can’t let this slide because it’s not right,” Amen-Ra said. “It’s not right for
somebody to say anything that’s racist.”

Like Andrews, Amen-Ra also confided in Walker-Brown.

“I feel like I could go to her about anything I might have on campus because I knew her prior to coming to St. Joe’s,” Amen-Ra said.

Amen-Ra met with Bill Bordak, director of Community Standards, to discuss the incident, on April 8. At the meeting, Bordak informed Amen-Ra that the white student involved in the situation had since withdrawn from St. Joe’s. The student was also previously a student-athlete, but was not a student-athlete at the time of the bias incident.

Bordak did not respond to an April 11 email from The Hawk requesting information.

According to Amen-Ra, Bordak said if the student decided to come back to St. Joe’s Amen-Ra would have the option to participate in a meeting with the student.

“If it was the other way around, like if it was me saying something like that to [the student], I feel that, by the situation I’m in and the color that I am, I feel like they would definitely kick me out immediately,” Amen-Ra said.

This story was updated March 3, 2023.

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  • H

    Hannah HaugApr 18, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    I was wondering why these students Names and Sport are protected. It would be best for the people to know who these individuals were so they can choose not to align themselves as them. They are above the legal age of 18 and since they are in college, knowledgable enough to understand what they did wrong. To think there is a potential these kids are somebody I know and associate with upsets me. We were discussing this article in my English class and openly everybody wanted to know who this was for the same reasons. To what extent is it worth protecting these two students over the entire Saint Joseph’s student body. What is your stance on releasing the names? Why can we not know?

    Reply