BlogCast Reflections is a new series of podcasts to be released approximately once a month. We address current issues concerning our university community, experiences in New York City, and beyond.
This month, we are joined by Adam Fales (’17) and Samantha Norman (’18) to discuss systemic racism and reflect on its effects at Fordham.
Sender: Fordham Public Safety
Subject: University Statement | Rose Hill Bias Incident
Date: Sun, Sep 13, 2015 at 8:16 PM
At 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 13, 2015, an African-American student notified a resident assistant, who in turn notified Fordham Public Safety, that a racial slur had been scratched into the door of his room in Lalande Hall. The room’s residents had not been present for most of the day, and it is unclear when the door was defaced.
Residential life staff and officers from Public Safety responded to the room, and notified NYPD, which is investigating the incident as a bias crime.
It goes without saying that such behavior is antithetical to the values of Jesuit education. Such slurs injure not only their intended targets, but the entire Fordham community. If the person who committed the act is identified, he or she will face University disciplinary proceedings in addition to whatever criminal charges are filed.
Anyone having any knowledge of the incident is urged to contact the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force at (646) 610-8763, or the Office of Public Safety at (718) 817-2222, and ask to speak to the Duty Supervisor.
Students are also encouraged to contact their resident assistants, commuter assistants, Office of Multicultural Affairs staff, resident ministers, and student life staff if they have anything to report, or if they simply want to discuss the incident and its effect on them and the community.
Sender: Office of the President
Subject: Racial Incident at Rose Hill
Date: Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 7:06 PM
Dear Members of the Fordham Family,
As you know, the opening of school is usually a fairly carefree time. Returning students ease into the new year by renewing their relationships and sharing stories of how they spent their summer vacations. The newest members of our community begin the process of creating the networks of friends who will support them throughout both their college careers and their entire lives. And, in the best tradition of Jesuit education, the devoted members of the faculty and staff take up once again the noble and sacred ministry of forming men and women of character, and men and women for others.
This is how the opening of school normally unfolds. It is usually a time of innocence, high hopes and higher spirits during which we both celebrate and nurture the values and principles that have always characterized the University. This year, however, things were different–starkly different. On Sunday of this week (ironically enough the very day on which the students, faculty and staff at Rose Hill gathered to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit), an African-American freshman was stunned to discover a crude racial slur scrawled on the door of his room in Martyrs’ Court. Immediately after he reported the incident to the residence hall staff, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Public Safety were notified. They, in turn, called in the Hate Crimes Task Force of the New York City Police Department to begin an investigation that they (and I) hoped would quickly lead to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the incident. Sadly, in spite their best efforts, neither the University’s staff nor the NYPD have been able to crack the case so far.
The incident that occurred in our midst on Sunday has affected the entire Fordham family. It has created an atmosphere in which both the victim of the incident and every African-American student on campus feel both violated and vulnerable. It has also undercut our efforts to create and nurture an inclusive community marked by respect, affection and mutual support.
I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that the incident that occurred last Sunday has left me frustrated and angry–very angry. The reason for my anger is easy to understand: I am angry that one cowardly bigoted person has inflicted such great pain on so many members of a community that I love deeply and that I feel blessed to serve. As for my frustration, I feel frustrated that I was not able to protect people whom I love from the forces of evil and intolerance.
It would, of course, be easy to say that I condemn the actions of the person responsible for last Sunday’s incident. It would also be easy for me to say that prejudice of any kind has no place at Fordham because of our identity as a Jesuit university. And I do both: I condemn the hateful action that has caused so many of our brothers and sisters pain. I also want to make it clear that there is no place for hatred and prejudice at Fordham. At the same time, however, I think it is far more important at this moment that we move beyond easy condemnations. Since this incident has been so disruptive, I believe that we have to take action to make sure that such incidents don’t occur again.
Therefore, I would like to enlist the help of every member of the University community to effect that conversion of heart that alone can heal us and lead to the renewal of our commitment to the values and ideals that have always guided Fordham.
First, I would like to ask anyone who has any information concerning the incident to step forward immediately so that we can solve the case. (You may share any information with either the Public Safety Office or the Office of Student Affairs.)
Second, I would ask the members of the Residential Life staff to conduct floor/hall meetings to discuss the incident with their residents. In the course of those meetings, I would be grateful if they could walk the students in their care through the behavioral expectations that Fordham has of all of its students.
Third, I would ask that the celebrants of all the Masses offered on both campuses on Sunday, 27 September include in their homilies an exhortation concerning the call to inclusive charity.
Fourth, I would ask all of the members of the faculty to consider including discussions of the following in their classes during the coming week:
- the causes of racism and racial intolerance in American society,
- the dangerous impact that racism has had and continues to have on the life of our nation, and
- suggestions as to how we can heal the divisions that racism has created in our country.
Finally, with all my heart I ask that you pray that our efforts at renewal be successful so that Fordham can be what it was founded to be: a different kind of university at which every student entrusted to its care is treated with respect, reverence and deep love.
Joseph M. McShane, SJ