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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

Students target Public Safety officers with racial slurs

Escort services are the main “touch points” between students and Public Safety officers on campus, according to Grover. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

Within the past month, two racial bias incidents directed at Public Safety officers have been reported.

According to an email from University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., a small group of male students yelled the n-word at a black female Public Safety officer on the morning of Oct. 24. The students were identified and suspended until their community standards hearing.

Seven days later on Oct. 31, another black Public Safety officer was called the n-word by an unidentified driver while waiting to exit the Campion Student Center parking lot, according to an email from the Bias Activity Review Group.

Arthur Grover, director of Public Safety and Security and member of the Bias Activity Review Group, said the incidents go against the culture of the St. Joe’s community.

“The recent incidents where officers have been targeted with racial epithets have been hurtful for many in the department, and I have seen people feel that they are not appreciated and marginalized in some ways,” Grover said.

When asked if The Hawk could interview Public Safety officers, Grover said he would prefer The Hawk didn’t reach out to Public safety officers at this time because “[They] are here all day and all night working around the clock to keep this place safe.”

Taylor Stokes ’22, secretary for inclusion and equity on University Student Senate (USS), said prior to the second incident, she asked a Public Safety officer about the first incident on her way home from work.

“While I was talking to him he said this wasn’t the first time this happened,” Stokes said. “He said he’d been working here for 10 years and this is nothing new.”

When asked if the recent incidents have been part of a pattern of abuse of Public Safety officers, Grover said no.

“I’ve been here almost four years and this is the first time an officer has been abused in this way,” Grover said.

Grover condemned the racist incidents, which he said can be linked to a current nationwide cultural trend.

“I think what’s going on societally in our country, and maybe even in the world, is giving rise to more of this type of vitriolic rhetoric, which is just horrible,” Grover said. “You don’t just see it at Saint Joseph’s University. If you look close it’s all around.”

Isis Gill-Reid ’20, vice president of Black Student Union (BSU), said if students said the n-word to someone on the street they “would be knocked out.”

“That’s the difference, you’re at a university here, be respectful of you peers and of people in power—or people that may not have so much power but are in power here like Public Safety for example,” Gill-Reid said. “If they were off duty what would have happened?”

Stokes said the individuals responsible for the first incident had to have known the history behind the word.

“They know that word can take black people to a certain place, which is the reason why they did it,” Stokes said. “They acted like cowards. I think if they had to go and say it to somebody’s face they would definitely re-think saying the n-word to them.”

Zoe Welsh ’22, president of Bridging the Gap, said when she spoke with Public Safety officers after the first incident they said they have experienced racist incidents before.

“It happens all the time,” Welsh said. “That incident, how sad it is, has brought to light a larger issue with how we treat our staff on this campus who serve us.”

Grover said in response to the incidents, he has made counseling services available to Public Safety officers.

“It’s important to get it out there and let people know what’s happening, and then remind them that you appreciate what they do and how they do it,” Grover said. “That’s what I make it my business to do and have and will continue to do.”

David Hudak ’21, public safety chair on USS, said he will be meeting with Grover later this week to discuss how to facilitate better interactions between students and Public Safety officers. Currently, Hudak said they are continuing the “Coffee With Cops” events where students have the chance to talk to Public Safety officers.

“It is now just about our students in general and trying to get people more educated and aware,” Hudak said.

Grover said that despite the racist incidents against Public Safety officers, there are “thousands of touchpoints [but] two incidents.”

“As horrible as those incidents are, there are thousands and thousands of people that we touch in a semester in ways that we know are appreciated,” Grover said. “People often say thanks. And we appreciate it.”

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