The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

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

Community Conversations: Racism at St. Joe’s



Since the start of the fall 2019 semester, there have been three reported racial bias incidents on campus. In response to these reports, the St. Joe’s administration hosted a University Forum on diversity, equity and inclusion on Nov. 4 in Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena.

To give every member of the St. Joe’s community the ability to attend, all classes between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. were cancelled. There were approximately 1,800 students, faculty and staff in attendance out of over 4,500 undergraduate students and 299 full time faculty as of the 2018-19 school year.

In response to recent racial bias incidents and the University Forum, The Hawk collected a variety of voices from the St. Joe’s community. Respondents consist of students, faculty, staff and alumni of different backgrounds, experiences and involvement on campus.

Racism is a global issue and a systemic problem that affects the world outside of St. Joe’s. We hope this collection of opinions and perspectives allows the discussion of racism on campus to continue and what is presented here allows for a continued pursuit of racial social justice.

We recognize what is presented here does not represent the views of the community at large, but a portion of the community. These quotes also primarily reflect white voices in order to highlight that the issue is rooted in whiteness, as Asia Whittenberg ’22 said when addressing the community in the Nov. 4 University Forum: “It is not the responsibility of black and brown people to educate you. No one person from this group should be seen as the spokesperson for an underrepresented identity.”

What can the administration do to address racism?

“What is needed is an entire institutional culture shift, which is challenging to do but it is important to work towards. It needs to involve more than a small subset of the university working on this. It needs to be everyone…Everyone is called to educate themselves, to work together and to take concrete action steps.” Beth Ford McNamee, assistant director of campus ministry

“Having staff members who are people of color in high administrative roles, in places where they can make a difference. I’m aware they’re doing a search for an assistant provost of inclusion, equity and diversity. For me, Monica Nixon [former assistant provost for inclusion and diversity] has been gone for a very long time. I feel like taking bold action against this, being proactive rather than reactive. I feel like their strategy has been very reactive and look where it’s gotten us.” Izabelle Valentin ’20, Latino Student Association co-president

“The students who are doing this aren’t in BSU or going to forums. The staff needs to talk to students in all classes and places on campus. The staff needs to be trained to be able to talk about racism in all classes. I have experienced microaggressions from professors, residents and classmates.” Caraiah Stout ’16

“What they did last week with the forum, I thought that was a great beginning. I don’t think one forum is going to do it. It’s a problem like any major problem, you need to take it a day at a time and spend every day of the rest of your life doing something about it. What I would hope the administration would continue to do is a series of sustained conversations across campus. Certainly at the grand scale we saw in Hagan Arena is a great place to start, but look for support for smaller conversations. We need to keep this conversation going. If all we have is one, is not going to be enough.” Frank Bernt, Ph.D., chair of health services department

“Can an administrator or a leader of an organization stop racism? I think it’s bigger than that. The leader has a responsibility to respond to racist events and proactively or preemptively say we won’t tolerate it at our organization. Wherever you learned it, however you learned it, you can’t have it here.” Lisa Nelson, D.Sc., visiting professor of management

“Smaller, more intimate sessions can encourage more sharing, response, and engagement between participants. Such dialogues can go a long way to addressing racial issues.  More proactive initiatives as opposed reactive events.” Morgan M. Bryant, PhD, assistant professor of marketing

What is your reaction when you hear about more racial bias incidents?

“At this point, it just doesn’t surprise me anymore. This isn’t the first time and unfortunately it won’t be the last. Until the university finally decides to step up and take action, this is going to keep happening.” Rae Coleman ’16

“I find it problematic that the only response seems to be ‘ok this happened, so let’s do something about it’ and then conversation dies down apart from a few students who continue to try to push the conversation until another incident occurs. It’s a cyclical repetitive issue. I find it frustrating to hear of another incident, but I find it even more frustrating to hear nothing in the gaps between them.” Cameron Redfern ’16

First saddened and frustrated, anger comes up to. I was encouraged by the decision on the part of the administration to cancel classes and to put a strong priority on drawing people together to have some conversation and to listen…that invitation to sit in the discomfort that can come up when we enter into real dialogue about racism and about privilege一to notice that discomfort and to sit with it, and then to let that be fertile ground for growth is a wonderful invitation.” Catherine Kirwan-Avila, A.C.J., campus minister

“I’m shocked that especially after these repetitive instances, and after these educational sessions that are being offered to students to sit down and talk about these issues among our campus they’re still happening. I’m hoping that these instances don’t happen again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they do.” Mike Zocco ’20, president of the St. Joe’s chapter of Interfraternity Council

“It makes me sick, it really does. It’s so unnecessary, but it’s the response that even makes me more ill. The fact that we don’t use restorative justice at all we keep looking to punish the offenders rather than to educate them and spread education among the whole student body.”  Don Haldeman, Ph.D, adjunct professor of sociology 

Do you think St. Joe’s has a problem with racism?

“There are people at St. Joe’s who have a problem, and there are people at St. Joe’s who do not.  Reported racial incidents of this and last year are an indication that, as a campus community, we do have a problem.” Nancy Fox, Ph.D., associate professor of economics.

“As an alum, if I’m hearing about these very specific incidents years after I have graduated, I can only imagine what the campus experience is like for a student of color 一 what that must feel like.” Lindsay Hueston ’16

“Do we have a problem with racism that’s different from the American society? No. Do we have a problem with racism from the point of view of trying to be a Jesuit college? Yes. Part of our DNA is about reaching out to people who are excluded, and if we’re not doing that, that means we have a Jesuit problem.” Bill Rickle, S.J., campus minister of athletics and student life

What can the university community do to address racism?

“You hear something, you see something, you say something. Even if you don’t bring it up to the university administration, you yourself, or whoever it is in the situation does the right thing by addressing it and making the person at fault be held accountable for it.” Terry Severe ’20, vice president of Afro-Carribean Student Association

“One thing our community could do better is to support our diverse clubs here on campus…Just support. And when you do notice something, see something, or hear something, speak out. Question it, and address the situation.” Jane Ingram-Noel ’20, co-president of Black Student Union

“When I talk about diligence and being patient, that’s making sure that you remember your students. We have our own individual goals and collective goals. The institution itself has many goals. What we need to do is then work together in the best way possible so that everyone’s needs are met. ” Tyler Jackson ’18

Instagram Poll Results

The Hawk conducted Instagram polls to collect data about the following questions. These figures represent only the viewpoints of our responding Instagram followers.



We gave our Instagram followers the opportunity to share their further input to the following questions. These responses were initially anonymous but some respondents gave us permission to share their names

Do you think the university doing enough to deal with racism?

I think they’re doing the absolute most that [sic] can. Fixing racism is hard. It’s not SJU’s responsibility to fix a world problem, but they’re doing what they can on our campus.” Anonymous

“Not enough. Too much tolerance for an issue that should have zero.” Fatmata Sakho ’21

I think they are trying, I think there are obviously some differences between their approaches last year and their approaches this year but I think the question truly is can they provide what the student body wants and then do they need to do that in order to create a safer and more inclusive environment. I think that it’s tough to break the tension between what students may be really asking for and what they can and will do.” Vilma Fermin ’20

“I want to know the exact repercussions of racial bias.” Malcolm Odom ’20

Is the student body doing enough to deal with racism?

“I am not seeing a change in culture- we must demand it.” Jess Arends ’20

“They don’t care because the university doesn’t care enough.” Fatmata Sakho ’21

“Students need to be acting as better allies and wanting to learn more.” Malcolm Odom ’20

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *