In an all-campus e-mail on Sunday, Dean Bolton informed the College community of a bias incident that occurred on Saturday night. A student reported waking up on Sunday morning to find the whiteboard on their door vandalized with a racial slur written vertically on a drawing of a penis. This troubling racist act comes at the beginning of Black History month and almost immediately after Claiming Williams day, in the midst of events and campus initiatives focused on eliminating bias incidents. We commend the administration’s quick and thorough response, as disseminating the incident’s relevant information efficiently is vital in affecting and framing student reactions. Events like last week’s Claiming Williams are intended, by the administration and student groups, to heal an ailing campus culture where these sorts of hurtful attacks occur. The proximity of this particular incident to Claiming Williams gives cause to assess the College’s community initiatives and see where these events are successful and where they may be improved.
Claiming Williams and similar programming, especially that intended for Black History month, do a great service in instructing the campus community on issues of diversity and social conflict. These educational events and student support of inclusion and acceptance for diversity are vital for creating a supportive community for everyone. There is room for improvement, however. While Claiming Williams aims to promote acceptance and inclusivity at the College itself, most of its programming this year did not focus on the campus community directly. Instead, many of the lectures, performances, discussions and film screenings focused on national and global issues regarding diversity, with campus culture often only touched on as an afterthought. While global issues are relevant to understanding diversity, to be in keeping with its mission, Claiming Williams needs to engage in productive discussion and planning directly applicable to the campus community. The structure in place is a good one, and what the community needs is effective, eye-catching programming that reaches students beyond the usual first-years and student interest groups that attend and plan such events.
Claiming Williams and other administration-sponsored student initiatives are already doing much for the campus community by solidifying and explicating the value that the administration and the student body place on inclusion and diversity. These programs have great potential in stopping these bias incidents from happening and fostering social change and improvement in the student body and beyond.