Trustees discuss hate crimes

(Rita Colucci, general counsel, received flowers from the Trustees during her last meeting before leaving FSU. Photo by Madison Rosbach.)

Framingham State’s Board of Trustees discussed the recent hate crimes and the campus emergency preparedness plan during its meeting on Nov. 29.

Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, shared with the members of the board the actions administrators have taken since the initial hate crime, which occurred on Friday, Oct. 13.

González said she would like to characterize the handling of these events using three words: “Immediate, transparent and visible.”

González added President F. Javier Cevallos alerted the campus community on the day of each event, something that other institutions do not do in these situations. She said waiting is “unnecessary and causes unnecessary harm to the students.”

Trustee Brian Herr, who attended the open forum held on Monday, Oct. 16 addressing the first two hate crimes, said he sensed students appreciated the opportunity to speak openly, but were frustrated by the lack of action being taken at that time.

“Whatever we do as an administration moving forward should be action- focused,” said Herr.

Board Chair Richard Logan thanked González for her handling of these events, saying, “This is not easy. None of these issues across the country are easy to deal with. I think you’ve done a remarkable job getting things going on.”

Student Trustee Karl Bryan also addressed the hate crimes during his report. Bryan said the response from students regarding the University’s handling of these incidents has been “mixed,” with some students feeling satisfied and some feeling the events have been “swept under the rug.”

Bryan also said some students were not satisfied with faculty responses in their classes to the hate crimes.

“As a political science student, I have talked about this in my classes,” said Bryan. However, he has spoken with some students in classes, particularly in science and math departments, who feel they had to “push” their professors to address these topics.

“This is an interdisciplinary issue that affects everybody,” he added. “If they can’t weave it into their curriculum, it should still be brought up.”

John Santoro, deputy chief of police and chair of the emergency preparedness committee, updated the board regarding FSUPD’s response to the hate crimes. He also explained updates that have been made to the University’s campus emergency management plan.

Santoro’s presentation was based on the 2016 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics/Fire Safety Report and Campus Emergency Handbook – an official document that was distributed to those in attendance that lists the past year’s crime statistics on campus and includes detailed protocols for emergencies, including bomb threats, fires, active shooter situations and earthquakes.

Santoro went over the ways FSUPD and the University are able to communicate with the community in emergency and non-emergency situations, including social media, information sessions and the emergency notification system – FSU Alert.

“We get a lot of messages out there – whether it be the power outages last month or a snowstorm. … But we do not put out just regular, mundane messages,” said Santoro. He stressed that FSU Alert should be used strictly in emergency situations, so message recipients do not become “fatigued” by the volume of notifications they’re receiving.

Santoro said Jane Decatur, director of the office of international education, keeps up with the location of individuals who are traveling abroad during the semester and will be working with the emergency preparedness committee in the future to create plans for those who may find themselves in an emergency abroad.

Olivia Marchioni, a senior nutrition major, addressed the board about her experiences as a student at FSU.

She was selected to be the “Student Spotlight” for her academic achievements as well as her involvement with the government nutrition program – Women, Infants, Children (WIC) – and her successful fundraising efforts for the Pan-Mass Challenge children’s program.

Marchioni was introduced by her thesis advisor, Brian Souza, a faculty member in the food and nutrition department. Before introducing Marchioni, Souza spoke about the hate crimes.

Souza said, “I know myself and some other faculty have been thanked by students for bringing up the racism in our classes. They appreciate the work of the faculty to create safe and inclusive classes on this campus. It’s more or less challenging depending on what field you teach in, but racism certainly cuts through most – if not all – academic disciplines.”

Following Marchioni’s presentation, Nancy Budwig, academic affairs subcommittee chair, presented to the board about upcoming faculty sabbaticals and the recent tenth anniversary of CELTSS.

Budwig said CELTSS would be an appropriate group to facilitate faculty discussions about diversity and how it can be addressed in the classroom.

“My sense is that, it’s not that faculty don’t want to do it, but it’s easier for those in certain fields who can take up the topic based on their own reading. Some may want to do it, but be at a loss,” she added.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, updated the board about recent enrollment events, including the Best of Brazil Cultural Fair FSU hosted in October.

Holloway said the University has enrolled nearly 100 new veteran students this year.

The meeting concluded following the finance committee report given by Michael Grilli, finance subcommittee chair. The paperwork distributed with Grilli’s report included documentation finalizing the costs and accounting for the University’s recent purchase of The Jonathan Maynard Building, which was approved during the final Framingham Town Meeting.

Grilli said, “It took a team effort to visit with the town, to suffer the slings and arrows of their arbitrary views on our role, but we are successful at this moment in that we won’t have to deal with the town anymore – the town meeting has passed.”

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