My alma mater has made the New York Times. And, it's not a pretty picture. Oh, it's one of those things that on the outside looks great... but then on the inside you get to see what is really going on.
Trinity officials, professors and students have been forced to reexamine their daily interactions with one another this semester after a series of racially polarizing events that have drawn widespread complaints from minorities over what they see as a climate of incivility and intolerance within their privileged campus of Gothic spires.You might remember that last week I posted a small bit about racial tensions on the Hartford campus. In that piece I quoted a student as saying that on his second day at Trinity, someone called him a nigger.
From classrooms to hip-hop concerts, the angry dialogue has led to some student protests and focused an unusual level of scrutiny on the college’s practices and policies.
The article notes that racial tensions are, perhaps, magnified in a small, liberal arts college community... and that this isn't the first time.
This is not the first time that Trinity has been divided by racial tensions. In 2003, the college canceled classes so that more than 1,500 students and faculty members could hold a “Dialogue Day” on race and diversity. It was prompted by complaints from black and Hispanic male students that they were being singled out for greater scrutiny by Hartford police officers.I'd say you could go much further back and find similar situations... similar even to the point of begging for action.
After this semester’s racial divisions, college officials held a forum last month on “socially offensive and unacceptable behavior” at the campus theater that drew hundreds of students and faculty members. The college is also reviewing its harassment and bias policies, and forming a committee of trustees, faculty members and students to address social issues. The committee is expected to report its findings in May.
In the spring of 1981, Trinity held what I now call an 'ism's day. I don't remember what it was really called, but it was an all-campus teach in: race and gender were the big topics. The impetus for this was the "Crow Incident," an alleged gang rape of a local woman. The teach-in became bigger than just that solitary incident, however, and attempted to provide learning over a wide variety of inequities and biases.
I'm not sure how much it helped back then. And, certainly, the College has a while more to go before all members of the community feel, and are, welcomed.
The question, and the issue, are key, however. How can you create a community for everyone, a community where people are judged for their ideas, not the color of their skin. Better yet, how about seeking to create a community where people aren't judged at all, but rather accepted for who they are and their potential?
Photo by Andrew Henderson for The New York Times.
My thanks to Dr. David Gardner, class of 1987, for pointing me to the New York Times article.