Black students and alumni want Rhodes College to investigate an alleged racist incident that took place on campus.
Last week, a banana was taped to the dormitory doors of two Black male students.
Students are now questioning if the administration is taking the incident seriously.
“We, as Men of Distinction, want action to be taken,” said Kofi Whitehead, Rhodes College Men of Distinction President, a multicultural organization.
“When racial instances happen publicly, the apology and the action should be done just as publicly,” said Whitehead.
According to Whitehead, the administration has not handled the incident properly. He calls the Rhodes administration’s lack of response “underwhelming” and says it took being pushed for several days for a vague statement to be released by the university.
The statement released by the interim president doesn’t directly address the incident but does say, “they have received reports about incidents that have contributed to our campus community feeling unsafe, particularly for Black and Jewish students.” It says they are taking them seriously, and investigations are underway.
The Men of Distinction released a statement. It reads in part:
“We have heard too many times that the acts that occurred over the weekend were simply jokes that went too far. To this we ask the following question: how is playing on racial stereotypes comical? How is making the conscious choice to racially target black and brown students funny?”
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In addition to the Men of Distinction releasing a statement, the Rhodes College Black alumni said they want whoever did this to be held accountable.
Below is the statement by Rhodes College:
As we gather for another academic year and welcome new members into our midst, we take part in the act of creating our community anew. Being together among difference is an essential part of our residential liberal arts community and it is an opportunity to affirm our community values of mutual respect, compassion, and inclusion.
We have received both Bias Education Reporting System (BERS) and Standards of Conduct reports about incidents that have contributed to our campus community feeling unsafe, particularly for Black and Jewish students. Thank you to those who alerted us to these incidents. Know that we are taking them very seriously and that both BERS processes and Standards of Conduct investigations are underway.
Both words and actions contribute to campus climate and our sense of belonging. Racism, antisemitism, homophobia, and other harms have no place in our community. The Bias Education Reporting System (BERS) and Standards of Conduct are in place so that we can address such incidents and take the necessary educational or, when warranted, disciplinary action.
Whatever the intentions when actions or words make members of our community feel unsafe or unwelcome, they do not align with our values as a college community. It is incumbent on every member of our community to learn not only how to avoid inflicting these harms but also to intervene actively when we witness them within our community.
We will continue to investigate such matters and meaningfully and fairly address any incident of racism, anti-Semitism, or discrimination. If you have experienced or witnessed such actions or words on our campus, please submit a BERS report here. If you would prefer to share your experience in person, please reach out directly to any of the following:
Creating a culture of compassion and belonging within a community is a challenge but a worthy one. Rhodes’ culture will only change for the better if each of us embodies the values we want to see: inclusion, antiracism, and a commitment to a healthy and meaningful campus experience where every member feels safe and valued. We are a community of neighbors, and the task at hand requires full participation. It will take all of us.
Carroll D. Stevens, JD