The six hate crimes committed on campus last semester strained relationships among students, faculty and staff. With students blaming administrators for not resolving the situation quickly enough and administrators clutching to any student demand they could bring to fruition, I believe many of us have lost focus of the persistent problem through all of this.
The person/persons who committed these crimes are still on campus, and the investigation cannot move forward without the input of those in the community who know something and are choosing to stay silent.
As a reporter who covered four of the six hate crimes last semester, as well as the first on-campus rally and the open forum held after the initial incidents, I have had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with students, administrators and an FSUPD representative. During those interviews, I have been exposed to feelings of frustration and helplessness from administrators and officers and expressions of anger and disenfranchisement from students.
Everyone is entitled to respond to these hate crimes in ways they feel are appropriate, but something I cannot help but notice is the responses, no matter who they’re from or how they’re intended to be perceived, are garnering negative attention and creating animosity on this campus during a time when we need to be united. Administrators cannot make up for the complications their roles come with, but their efforts should not be ignored at a time their presence is a necessity.
Students have been offered nothing but cooperation and transparency from the administration since the first reported hate crime. During the open forum, President F. Javier Cevallos stood before hundreds of students and responded sympathetically to every grievance raised. Even when he was yelled at by angry students who felt he deserved some of the blame, he did not falter and continued to provide a platform for students to speak freely.
At other universities, this hasn’t been the case. Not every university president sends campus-wide announcements, no matter how bad their message may be for the university’s public image. Not every university administration listens to students’ recommendations and puts them into effect as much as possible considering fiscal and logistical limitations.
When students demanded workshops and training sessions, the University provided them. Even after dismal turnout during the healing service and the bias training workshop, the administrators did not turn their backs on students. Instead, they planned more events, marched in student-organized rallies and opened their doors for students to speak openly about what they believe should be done in response to these hate crimes.
If hundreds of students are available to line up well in advance for events, such as Bingo, where are they during important events like the Unity Workshop held during the universal free period? When only five students show up to events like these, our campus appears to be even more divided than it did when the hate crimes were committed.
Students should not be using these hate crimes as opportunities to blame the administration for something they could not have stopped from happening. Students need to start calling attention to casual racism and suspicious behavior they witness in their residence halls and classrooms to promote an atmosphere on campus that doesn’t condone racism and hatefulness.
If and when these perpetrators are caught, our administrators are not going to determine the legal repercussions they face. Administrators and students alike would prefer for these to be treated as hate crimes in the eye of the law and the perpetrators charged to the fullest extent.
However, none of us has any say in how that will play out in court.
What we can do is help bring these people to light so that the legal process can get underway and these people can be removed from our campus. Let us not let these individuals divide us further, but instead, let us come together to achieve our common goal of removing racism from FSU.