By Cara McCarthy
By Maia Almeida
[Editor’s Note: This is the third and final installment of articles covering The Gatepost’s 2020 political survey. The other two articles covered student views on the election and current political topics. You can read the other two articles on fsugatepost.com.]
In an unscientific survey conducted by The Gatepost from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15, students said they supported the Black Lives Matter Movement and were concerned about police misconduct and white supremacy movements.
Three-hundred students participated in the survey.
Approximately 92% percent of Gatepost student survey respondents said they support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Approximately 93% of Gatepost survey respondents said they were concerned about instances of police misconduct. Additionally, 66% of respondents said they support redirecting police funding to social services programs.
Approximately 82% of survey respondents said they were worried about the rise of white supremacy movements in the U.S.
Approximately 92% of survey respondents said systemic racism impacts the United States.
Rep. Jack Lewis, a Democrat representing Ashland and a portion of the City of Framingham, said, “I’m very impressed that the great majority – nearly 92% – of Framingham State students support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“In a perfect world, this would be 100%,” he added. “But as we are reminded – and as shown on our TVs every evening on the nightly news – while we have made great progress in civil rights and great progress toward true racial justice and equity, the work continues.”
Constanza Cabello, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said, “As a campus, we’ve said Black lives matter. We’ve affirmed that systemic racism is a reality.”
Cabello added Framingham State has made anti-racism “mission critical,” and said, “That’s central to our values.”
She added that nationally, people are viewing this year as a “twin-demic. COVID-19 and the ongoing killing of black and brown bodies, and that’s really impacted everything,” she said.
Cabello said one of the most important actions the community can take to confront racism is to “meet free speech with more free speech.”
Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, said of all the information gathered in the 2020 Gatepost survey, she was least surprised that most of the student respondents support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Holloway specifically referenced the racist acts of 2017 as an example of bias incidents that have occurred on campus.
“It [the racist incidents on campus] hits home in many ways for people,” she added.
Black Lives Matter Movement
Of the 300 Gatepost student survey respondents, 275, 91.7%, said they support the Black Lives Matter Movement, and 25, 8.3%, do not.
Many FSU students shared why they support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Some survey respondents replied by saying, “Black Lives Matter,” but did not provide any more of an explanation.
One survey respondent said, “No lives matter until Black lives matter. I agree very strongly with the movement, and I think the police in America need to be defunded and have the funds go to other problems.”
Taylor Anderson, a senior English major, said, “People need to stop ignoring what makes them uncomfortable. BLM should not just be a trend where people post a black square one week and forget about it the next.
“Movements require constant action. People need to vote, stand up for others, educate themselves, advocate for reform,” she added.
Co-president of M.I.S.S. Mariah Farris said she thinks the Black Lives Matter Movement has received more attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was the one thing I think COVID made a thing because everybody was trapped in their house,” she said. “Everybody had the news. It was on TV and on every channel. It was on social media. There was no getting away from it.”
Farris added, “I think for the first time in a long time, or first time ever in my opinion, white people are actually seeing firsthand on the screen something that they haven’t come to terms with or haven’t seen before.”
Samantha Collette, president of the class of 2022, said, “I do think students care about the BLM Movement, as reflected in The Gatepost survey results. Those responses further show that when racial incidents occur on our campus, they come from a very specific group of people and it does not reflect how the community feels toward people of color.”
Collette added, “It also seems like the general University response is reactive and not preventative, as if they send out emails to reach out but it’s only because bad things happened.”
Phoenix Harris, president of the Black Student Union (BSU), said, “I think that everybody, no matter how vocal or active they are, can always do more.”
Harris said the Sociology and Psychology departments have been very vocal and supportive in the movement, but others not as much. “They [other departments] could do a lot more to bring attention to what we feel is important.”
Cameron Duffy, a junior psychology major, said, “I am surprised about the number of people who don’t support the BLM Movement just because of the demographics that are present at Framingham State.”
However, some survey respondents said they were hesitant to support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
One Gatepost survey respondent said, “Being a Black individual myself, I agree with the BLM statement, but not what they are trying to achieve through the movement.
“It counteracts that Black lives matter, and they pick and choose what they are for,” they added.
Another survey respondent said, “I support the message BLM is trying to send, but disagree with the organization’s approach.”
Additionally, another Gatepost survey respondent said the Black Lives Matter Movement is no longer representing its original mission.
“I feel that the Black Lives Matter Movement has been corrupted and people are no longer vouching for the improvement of Black lives in this country, but instead are politicizing the movement to further their own interests,” they said.
Ariana Nunez, vice president of Brother to Brother (B2B), said sometimes, she is worried about discussing her support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. “If I want to bring it up to someone I don’t know, it’s scary because I don’t know how they’re going to react.
“I feel like I have to keep my guard up because I don’t know everybody here – I’m meeting new people every day,” she added.
Tara Donovan, a junior English major, said she supports the Black Lives Matter Movement, but is concerned with its portrayal in the media.
“I’m worried about how they’re reporting on that stuff,” she said. “A lot of people will get the wrong idea of what Black Lives Matter means. I think people are getting the idea that young kids are rioting.”
Another Gatepost survey respondent said, “I support Black lives and know they’re in danger, but I refuse to support a movement that condones violence toward businesses and innocent people.”
Sociology Professor Virginia Rutter said people who are less informed about these issues are likely to be more hesitant about supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“This [hesitation to support the BLM Movement] has to do with a lack of information, a lack of the provision of enough support for understanding that Black Lives Matter is a simple and core premise that takes nothing from anyone else and only gives us all the best that’s possible,” she said.
Criminology Professor Xavier Guadalupe-Diaz said, “What we’re experiencing right now with the movement for Black lives is a culmination of centuries of systemic white supremacist marginalization in the U.S., which was compounded by layers of crises happening here and around the world.”
He noted the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as “a crippled economy, the erosion of democratic norms in U.S. institutions, and the rise of populist authoritarianism,” as crises.
The Gatepost survey also found 279 students, 93%, were concerned about incidents of police brutality, while 21, 7%, were not.
Several Gatepost survey respondents stated they were dissatisfied with President Donald J. Trump’s approach to the recent incidents of police misconduct.
One survey respondent said, “It is highly concerning to me the way Trump has handled racial injustice and police brutality situations recently.”
This survey respondent added, “I can’t in good conscience vote for a racist president.”
Another Gatepost survey respondent said, “I understand ‘All lives matter’ or ‘Not all police officers are bad,’ but we need to care for Black lives because they do not choose to be the race they are.
“They are born being Black, while police officers put themselves in these situations,” they said. “We must care for all lives, but most importantly, Black lives right now!”
Lidia Flores, co-president of Latinos Unidos N’ Accion (LUNA), said, “Everything is based off the color of your skin. My parents every day have to worry about being pulled over because of the color of their skin.
“Not only is it the white police officers – it’s your fellow Hispanics and African Americans, too,” she said. “It’s sad someone has to fear when they see a cop. One shouldn’t have to fear those who are there to protect us.”
Another survey respondent said, “I believe that police brutality is a thing and that POC [people of color] have become targeted victims of police brutality because of the systemic racism in our country.”
BSU president Harris said the police and justice system’s actions are going to be difficult to fix and what the nation is currently doing is not enough.
“We are going to have to figure out something else to do, because what we’re doing is not working,” she said.
Spencer Lezin, a junior business management major, said, “It’s honestly really sad how we cannot fully trust people who are supposed to protect us.”
M.I.S.S. co-president Ewine Fedna said people of color’s fear of police is not new.
“Before Trump’s presidency, the fear of cops was there, but it was never every day when you got into the car and prayed that you got home,” she said.
B2B Vice President Nunez said, “Obviously, police brutality has been a thing for ages, but I feel like now, after COVID, things are really being brought to light.”
While many of the survey respondents said they supported at least some funding from police departments being redirected to support social services programs, a small number said they were against the idea.
One Gatepost survey respondent said, “I’m concerned about police brutality, but a whole group of people should not be condemned for a few bad apples. That goes for any party, race, job, or group.”
Brad Medeiros, chief of the Framingham State University Police Department (FSUPD), said while they are not allowed to comment on political activity, FSUPD remains committed to supporting diversity within the community.
He said in the past year, FSUPD officers have received extensive diversity training in areas such as preventing and responding to hate crimes, managing bias, diversity and inclusion in the modern workplace, mental health first aid (including police interactions), criminal justice reform, de-escalation training, fair and impartial policing, and First Amendment rights.
Medeiros added, “The University Police Department is committed to continuous improvement, to ensuring that our training reflects best practices.
“We will continue to review recommendations – both nationally and locally – to identify areas for enhancing our policies and training,” he added.
Of the 300 Gatepost survey respondents, 229 students, 76.3%, said they support some police funding being redirected to support social services programs, 36, 12%, said they do not, and 35, 11.7%, said they were unsure.
Rep. Lewis said, “I’m optimistic that we, as a local community, but also as a nation, are going to find a way to move forward in a way that ensures that our communities are [not only] safe, but that those of us with family members of color and friends of color don’t have to worry about the possibility that a speeding ticket for our Black sons could lead to a death sentence.”
Several Gatepost survey respondents said they support the national movement for defunding the police.
Undeclared freshman Gustavo Pazi said, “Too much strength is being given to them in the form of new high-end equipment, and leniency in rules against them has made it so they have free rein to do whatever they want to the citizens that they’re supposed to protect.
“Defunding the police is definitely the correct course we should take, but I also feel it wouldn’t be enough in the long run,” he added. “We should be defunding the police and the military at the same time.”
LUNA co-president Flores said, “Defunding the police can help the community and help each other, because the police are not helping us.
“Being from a low-income city myself, it is the best solution to help our community grow and get better,” she said.
Eddy Olu, a junior computer science major, said, “Recently, my city has poured money into new police squad cars, but there are some potholes that have been on certain streets that have been there since I was a child.”
He added, “Putting money into fixing streets and actually progressing cities would be a nice first step.”
Tadiwa Chitongo, a junior biochemistry major, said, “The police need to be defunded. The money needs to be going to extracurricular activities and making sure that children have places to spend their time and go for help in case they need it.”
He recommended art programs, shelters, and orphanages as other places to reallocate funding.
Elizabeth Dollard, a sophomore elementary education major, said, “I do believe that some of the excessive funding could be reallocated to different parts of the community. My main belief is that education could desperately use some of these funds.
“Otherwise, I think some of the funds the law enforcement profession have could be used instead to fund training to further enforce how to avoid excessive force,” Dollard added.
Another Gatepost survey respondent said, “While I believe in the Black Lives Matter Movement, I do not believe the police should be defunded in hopes that it will stop police brutality.
“I believe that instead, the funds should be used to buy nondeadly weapons to replace guns and [fund] training in ways to bring in a suspect safely so that way everyone feels safe,” they added.
FSU President F. Javier Cevallos said, “One thing that we have to be more nuanced about is what defunding the police means.
“You do need to have, obviously, police security. Not everybody is a good citizen and not everybody is going to behave,” he added. “So, that word ‘defunding’ tends to be misinterpreted.”
Cevallos said the police should invest in social programs, training, and different kinds of activities, “especially community policing.
“That is different than just taking money away from the police. And I think that people react strongly one way or [another] for the police. If somebody tries to break into my house, I want to have a police officer around,” Cevallos added.
History Professor Jon Huibregtse compared the United States’ police force funding to that of other countries.
“It is my understanding that in countries where they have redirected money into social services and into kinds of preventative programming, crime has declined,” he said.
Vice President Holloway said she encourages people to talk about why police have become militarized instead of putting that money toward more intense training programs.
Holloway said the question that should be asked is why police funds are going toward “excess military supplies” rather than services such as mental health and community policing.
She also acknowledged police forces often receive a larger portion of the budget than public schools, community aid programs, and in some cases, fire departments.
She said she believes “defund the police” is “a fear-inducing term.”
White Supremacy Movements
Of the Gatepost survey respondents, 245 students, 81.7%, said they were concerned about the rise of white supremacy movements in the U.S., and 55, 18.3%, said they were not.
Student Trustee McKenzie Ward said she was surprised to see 18.3% of respondents were not worried about the rise of white supremacy groups.
“In recent years, we have seen more hate crimes occurring and we have seen literal Nazi parades occur in our country,” she said. “It makes me worried that people are not paying enough attention to what is going on in the world.”
Rep. Lewis said the rise of white supremacy “should be a concern to everyone.”
He added, “We have a moral obligation to make sure that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, from law enforcement all the way through to the elected leaders – from local mayors all the way up to the president – denounce these movements.”
Lewis referenced President Trump’s remarks at the first presidential debate.
“Hearing the president during the first presidential debate this year telling the Proud Boys group to ‘stand by’ was alarming and concerning, and, for those who paid attention, a clear sign of where his heart truly is as it relates to justice and equity,” he said.
According to The New York Times, the Proud Boys is a far-right group that is known for endorsing violence. The group describes itself as a “pro-western fraternal organization for men,” and has been tied to violent incidents at protests.
Mia Ihegie, a junior political science major and president of Justice, Unity, Inclusion, Community, Equity (J.U.I.C.E.), said, “I learned that no matter how many visuals you can give, or facts you can put in people’s faces, ignorance is something that can’t be healed.
“I personally feel that ignorance is a disease that no one is looking for a cure. The ignorant will stay ignorant until they are ready to learn,” she added.
Nicholas Miranda, a junior marketing major, said, “I absolutely think that white supremacy needs to be addressed. With the number of people supporting the All Lives Matter Movement, it’s clear that there are plenty of people who have white supremacist mindsets ingrained within themselves.”
One survey respondent said they find it very troubling to see the rise of white supremacy movements in the U.S.
“I feel like our country is in a huge battle with ourselves,” they said.
Carmen McLaughlin, a senior history major, said, “This is something that should have been addressed way before today.” She added it’s not right that in 2020, people still have to be afraid of “far-right groups like the KKK.”
One Gatepost survey respondent said, “I think racism and white supremacy have always been in this country. I think that Trump’s position as president has made racists and white supremacists more vocal.”
Vice President Holloway said white supremacy movements have been around since “at least the birth of the KKK.
“The current political climate has allowed them [white supremacist groups] to have more of a voice and more influence.”
She added, “The joining of forces between many of these groups with armed militia groups should cause concern for everyone, not just BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] who live here.”
Professor Guadalupe-Diaz said the most troubling part about the rise of white supremacy to him is that they [hate groups] have become increasingly “emboldened and normalized.
“What we are seeing now is this growing militia movement that has, historically, facilitated major acts of domestic terrorism and mass violence,” he added.
He said people need to be more “vigilant” about how authority figures normalize white supremacy.
Education and Faculty-led Initiatives
Many Gatepost survey respondents, as well as students, professors, and administrators interviewed by The Gatepost, discussed the need for more education within the FSU community to address incidents of racial bias.
Vice President Cabello said education is essential to combating racial injustice.
“It’s really up to us to create opportunities for education, but also opportunities for multiple voices to be heard,” she said.
Cabello said the Bias Education Response Team (B.E.R.T.) is one of those on-campus resources for bias education.
She said, “A lot of times, people think we’re [B.E.R.T.] just a response team.
“But, we have been doing prevention and education, too,” she added.
Cabello said while she feels good about the work the University has undertaken, the biggest challenge it faces is that it is going to take “a lot of time” to undo systemic racism.
Several students said they were dissatisfied with certain offices’ approaches to educating the community about racial inequality.
President of J.U.I.C.E. Ihegie said she believes FSU should employ professors who are willing to teach what is happening in the “current political climate.
“Not everyone is going to see the survey. Not everyone is going to hear about a Black Lives Matter event. Not everyone is going to hear the things they [Framingham State administrators] are promoting,” she added.
Ihegie said one way the FSU community can promote anti-racism education is for the University to hold more programs – in the classroom and out – to educate students.
SGA Secretary Lexi Kays said she believes the University “should be talking more.
“I feel as though individual departments are handling it well on social media, but the University as a whole sent a couple of emails back at the height of everything in June but hasn’t mentioned much since,” said Kays.
She said she wants all students to feel safe and comfortable on campus regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Senior English major Taylor Anderson said, “In addition to protests, we should definitely educate ourselves more on these issues.”
Class of 2022 President Samantha Collette said, “On campus, it seems like some departments and offices care more than others.”
Collette specifically said she sees the Dean’s Office, New Student and Family Programs, and Residence Life using social media to provide material and resources about racial bias and equity.
She added she does not see this kind of action being taken by other offices on campus.
Professor Huibregtse said he believes FSU has done a lot to combat racism, but knows there is still work to be done.
“From a faculty perspective, I know we’re trying,” he said. “Is that to say we’ve solved the issue? Absolutely not. Can we do more? Absolutely yes! People are trying, and we probably need to try harder in some instances.”
English Professor Kelly Matthews said, “Students are really leading in terms of advocacy against racism.”
She added the Faculty Against Hate group was inspired by the students who protested in 2017 after racial incidents in residence halls and said there needs to be an ongoing conversation between students and professors to address racial issues.
“We, as professors, need to share power across that student-professor division, and we need to open up to examining, acknowledging, and addressing those power disparities – especially the ways in which they show up around racism and ethnicity,” Matthews said.
She encouraged students to “keep speaking out and speaking up” about racial inequity.
[Ashley Wall, Donald Halsing, Leighah Beausoleil, Abby Petrucci, and Caroline Lanni contributed to this article. McKenzie Ward is the Opinions Editor for The Gatepost.]