Building a stronger FSU community: Students express their concerns amid continued racist incidents

Students protest racial bias outside the McCarthy Center on March 1. (Donald Halsing / THE GATEPOST)

President F. Javier Cevallos and other administrators hosted an open forum March 6 in the McCarthy Center to address the recent hate crimes.

FSUPD Chief Brad Medeiros updated the community on the status of the Feb. 1 hate crime investigation. That day, racist writing was found on a bathroom stall on the third floor of Horace Mann. 

Using camera footage, FSUPD identified 12 females who had entered the bathroom during the timeframe they believed the crime occurred. 

“These cases are a little difficult,” he said. “You have a situation where we either have evidence, we have a witness, or we get a confession – and that’s how these things work. 

“We can’t frivolously charge 12 females who went into the bathroom and say that they all did it. Everybody’s been interviewed and nobody’s giving it up. So, this is where we sit with this investigation right now,” he said.

Cevallos said, “I’ve had it with these kinds of things. We have all had it with these kinds of things. This is not a place for hate. Our community does not stand for this.

He added, “We need all of us to come together, you and us as part of one community, to work together to just tell the people who are doing this that we have had it.”

 Glenn Cochran, associate dean of students and director of residence life, said at last year’s hate crime forum, a student made a point that she felt like the FSU community needs to make racists feel as if they’re the “loneliest people in the world.”

He added, “These incidents are just so hurtful and disappointing and awful in our community. We all need to get together and speak out. I applaud everybody whose here for sending the message.

“When we all come together and send messages, through our presence here and through other things, I think we move in the direction of achieving that.”

A student attending the forum asked Cochran and Medeiros about the new cameras installed in the residence halls. 

Cochran said the University was able to obtain an additional 50 cameras last year and placed them in the best possible areas or where they would have “the most impact.” 

 “Cameras, I think, can help,” Cochran said. “They will help someone maybe be free from getting a note under their door, but they don’t necessarily change the things in the hearts and minds of people.

He added, “So, I think promptly all of us would agree that were not going to be placing cameras in toilet stalls, right? There’s a limit to them.”

Cevallos said, “It’s very hard to stop somebody from putting something in the bathroom stall. … I think that we have to continue to educate people. … We do a lot of activities, but it’s never enough, and we have to do more.”

He then asked the audience to help the administration develop ways to educate the FSU community about diversity and inclusion. 

Sophomore Carlos Barbosa said he and a couple of other students formed a group called CLEAR (Collaborative Leadership Effort Against Racism). 

The group, he said, created a list of demands and suggestions they will present to the administration. One idea they came up with was to create a diversity and inclusion GenEd domain that each student must take in order to graduate.  

Barbosa said the domain would force students “to face the topic of racism and other things in that category and force them to think about it, even if they don’t want to change their mind.”

He added, “We as an entire University – we’re ready and we’re planning. The first word of our group is ‘collaborative,’ so, we’re in conjunction with you guys. We’re not against you guys. … But we’re not going to be stepped on, or lied to, or turned away from.”

Linda Vaden-Goad, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said CLEAR and other students can submit their suggestions in a “governance log” and a committee will review it.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, said if students want to see a policy in the Ram Handbook changed or reinforced, they can go through the Student Affairs subcommittee. 

She said, “We’re supposed to be a democracy. … You want to change the law? You got to show up, say what you want to be changed, have the discussion, and be part of that process.”

Holloway added, “That’s also a way to reinforce the idea that it’s not just one person or two people making a particular rule, but it’s a community that has made a decision.” 

In order to prevent these incidents from happening, Holloway said one thing students asked for during the 2017 incidents is the implementation of mandatory diversity training for students and first-years to help establish inclusivity as one of FSU’s core values. The program should be orchestrated the same way or Haven have implemented. 

“University campuses should not be a hotbed of racism should not be a hotbed of sexism. It should be a place of education and inclusion,” she said.

According to Vaden-Goad, all first-year students will have something called “a high-impact practice” embedded into their classes to teach them about diversity and inclusion. 

SGA President and senior Benjamin Carrington thanked everyone in the forum for attending.

“We keep preaching it,” he said. “This has been happening for the four years I’ve been here. We need to have as many people come as possible. So, first and foremost, applaud yourself for being here and being a part of this conversation. … We can’t force everybody to come to these forums, but if they’re here for education, we can make sure that we teach this to them when they leave after their four years.”

He added right now, SGA is working with Millie Gonzalez, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, on an anti-racism collaborative and student training. He then asked the administration for an update on the search for the new director for the Center for Inclusive Excellence. 

Gonzalez said the search is ongoing because the University is trying to hire the best possible person.

“My hope is that we close the search by the end of the semester. That way, this particular candidate can work on necessary programming in the summer,” she said.

Another student said she experienced racism, not from a student, but from a faculty member who was a person of color. The student said she went to the department head about her experience and the department head brushed it off, as if there were nothing she could do. 

Gonzalez suggested the student should fill out a Bias Education Response form. FSU has a bias response team, whose job is to discuss bias incident reports and follow up, she said.

Another student suggested to make the faculty’s bias training workshop a mandatory exercise, not just “highly encouraged.” 

In response to the student, Vaden-Goad said, “We are working on a retreat and kind of figuring out how that will be workshopped. We’re definitely talking about mandatory training for everyone who teaches here.” 

Gonzalez said, “I think everywhere has a racism problem. … One-and-done training is not going to solve racism. It has to be a long-term commitment.”

She added, “I’ve worked on diversity and inclusion since the day that I entered Framingham State, which was 13 years ago, and I can’t tell you how many trainings I have participated in, how many discussions, because I personally have that commitment. 

“So, what I would suggest is to move beyond mandatory training to move toward everyone committed to eradicating racism on campus, and becoming an anti-racism community. … We have to deal with racism on a daily basis and this is the ugly truth of America, unfortunately.”

Vaden-Goad said this year, administrators added a “diversity statement” requirement to the University job application process. When someone applies for a position at the University, she said, they must talk about their experiences with diversity and inclusion before they are hired. 

She added the University is always trying to hire more faculty members from underrepresented groups. For example, the Mary Miles Bibb Fellowship program is used to hire faculty members who are interested in diversity and inclusion issues, and they come into a full-time temporary position. 

Junior Kiara Davis said, “I feel like I sense a lot of hostility whenever incidences come about.”

She added, “It’s really unfortunate that one person can create a divide like that. So, I just want to remind everyone that we’re in this together and that the faculty and staff and administration are not against us. I know we want to take it out on someone, but in order to actually see progress, we’ve got to work together.”