Students and alumni of William Paterson University Alumni & William Paterson University of New Jersey speak out against the college handling this serious issue.
Remarks are heard from
President Kathleen Waldron
And other Panelists
My Minute Minute
2018 Edmunds Productions
"William Paterson University is holding a town hall-style forum on diversity in the wake of this week's controversy over a sorority sister's use of a racial slur in a Snapchat video that went viral. Viorel Florescu, Photo Journalist
WAYNE — About 200 students filled a ballroom at William Paterson University on Friday to demand action from college administrators they say have turned a deaf ear to repeated calls for change in the face of racism on campus.
The town-hall style forum was held in response to a video posted on Snapchat by a white female student who used a racial slur.
That incident, said black students, is one of numerous cases in which they and their peers have felt belittled and discriminated against.
William Paterson University is holding a town hall-style forum moderated by Michelle Johnson on diversity in the wake of this week's controversy over a sorority sister's use of a racial slur in a Snapchat video that went viral. (Photo: Viorel Florescu/Northjersey.com)
More than 25 students, professors and alumni, some who could not hold back tears, addressed a panel of four university leaders. The event moderator was Michelle Johnson, the university's chief diversity officer.
One black student said she felt "scared" and "segregated," while a black professor alleged she was the victim of a stalker. When no one would listen to her, she said, it became the "most isolating and terrifying experience" of her teaching career.
At least two students described feeling different because of the courses they study, one of them a black woman in a computer science class of predominantly white men. Others cited the November 2015 suicide of Cherelle Locklear, a black student who allegedly was raped two months before at a fraternity house.
One black student said he looked forward to attending the university because he felt he would be moving to a neighborhood, far from his native Newark, where he would not be exposed to bigotry.
"I came here for a change," said the student, a freshman. "If I wanted to be harassed by cops, I would've stayed in Newark. If I wanted systemic racism, I would've stayed in Newark. If I wanted to hear the (racial slur), I definitely would've stayed in Newark."
Dani Carr takes the microphone as William Paterson University is holding a town hall-style forum on diversity in the wake of this week's controversy over a sorority sister's use of a racial slur in a Snapchat video that went viral. (Photo: Viorel Florescu/Northjersey.com)
The Snapchat incident resulted in the student's dismissal from her sorority, Delta Phi Epsilon, and her resignation from the executive board of the university's Greek Senate.
However, according to a statement issued on Tuesday by Kathleen Waldron, the university's president, the student did not violate the college's code of conduct.
Breanna Goins, president of the university's Feminist Collective, expressed anger with college leaders over their decision not to punish the student.
"I think the fact that you were excusing [the student's] behavior is disgusting," Goins said. "Free speech – are you serious? You've got to be kidding me. You've got to be kidding me."
Waldron remained stoic during the students' speeches, until the end of the two-hour forum when she professed empathy and promised their concerns were being heard.
Mfon Essiet takes the microphone as William Paterson University is holding a town hall-style forum on diversity in the wake of this week's controversy over a sorority sister's use of a racial slur in a Snapchat video that went viral. (Photo: Viorel Florescu/Northjersey.com)
"This has been very painful to listen to," said Waldron, who is retiring. "I can't sit here today and say, 'We're going to do this, we're going to do this or we're going to do that.' No – we have to really think and work with you on specific things you have talked about."
Zhada Stamps, president of the university's Black Student Union, enumerated a list of "demands" she said she and her peers want implemented.
The list includes students' desire for the university to hire more black psychiatrists and psychologists and for faculty, including police, to undergo diversity training. They also demanded an in-person meeting with Waldron's successor, Richard J. Helldobler.
"Your core values have not been filled in the hearts of your black student population for awhile," Stamps said. "We are not suspects with criminal intent. We are not barbaric beings with lawless spirits and unruly minds."
Johnson said university leaders will roll out a "plan of action" to address students' concerns in time for the fall semester.
About the forum, Johnson said it was her idea because she "felt it was necessary. I felt it was necessary even though I knew what would happen.
"I think we all had a little bit of trepidation coming into this meeting," she added. "But, that doesn't take away from the necessity of why we have to have this."
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