This article first came to my attention at Rawstory.com regarding harassment of Black sorority women at the University of Connecticut. So much was covered on the race-and class baiting street harassment video that we don't pay attention to the real victims of street and university harassment. It's us Black women, Women of Color, ethnic White women, working/lower class women who bear the brunt of such harassment and it's not always men of Color, ethnic/working class White men. It's the upper class men such as the frat boys pictured below.
How can those guys get away with such racist evil?
“This is definitely not UConn’s finest hour”: Community Uproar Against Campus Racism
Christine Wilson (left) and Noel Cazenave (right) speak at the town meeting on campus racism hosted by the African American Cultural Center and Asian American Cultural Center. (Photo by Ryan King/The Daily Campus)
“Privilege will ruin our reputation,” Brittney Yancy, a victim of harassment by members of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said to a round of applause at a town hall meeting hosted by the African American Cultural Center last night. “And if it goes unchecked, this is how it impacts our community. It will determine who matters, who is protected, who gets access and who is worthy of justice on this campus.”
Audience members including student leaders and UConn alumni felt disrespected by responses from some of the panelists who were giving comments on community, civility and respect.
The forum was held in the Student Union at 6 p.m. on Monday and featured panelists UConn Police Chief Barbara O’Connor, Vice President of Student Affairs Christine Wilson, Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty, Sociology Professor Noel Cazenave and Director of the Asian American Cultural Center Angela Rola.
The focus of the meeting was a confrontation which occurred on Sept. 29 between an African American sorority and a historically white fraternity.
Greek students belonging to the fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha verbally accosted members of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority after painting on a spirit rock, using racially-infused hate speech.
“We were called whores, and after establishing that I was a university professional I was verbally accosted, and intimidation tactics were used,” said AKA Graduate Advisor Brittney Yancy. “They called me a fat black bitch, not just a fat bitch but a fat black bitch.”
Although sanctions were administered against PIKE including the loss of rock painting privilege, individual members at the incident were not punished.
“I have to deal with the fact that the student who has verbally accosted me received no punishment,” Yancy said.
After Yancy made her remarks, Wilson talked about diversity and access and Daugherty expressed a shared commitment to make everyone on campus feel safe and heard.
UConn Political Science Professor Evelyn Simien addressed the panelists during question and answer: “We don’t want to hear about your job descriptions or the statistics,” she said.
Siemien asked that the panelists to “go off script and speak from your heart as a human being that’s not so invested in your administrative job description.”
One particularly thought-provoking question demonstrated the double standard which the incident raised.
“Had the perpetrators been black men and the sorority girls been white, wouldn’t the results have been different?” Simien asked.
O’Connor did not have an answer for this hypothetical situation.
Khalifa Miles, who was at the incident that night, said he felt disrespected by the chief’s response. “As a chief, you have the supreme command in running these police officers that serve this university, so how is it that you don’t have an answer?” he asked. “Do they have free reign to do whatever they want?…There has to be a protocol. There has to be some type of training put in place for these men to adhere to. I think it’s highly disrespectful for you to address these concerns with: I do not have an answer.”
One student said she doesn’t understand how the university can say that they promote safety when some students don’t feel safe.
“Things like this happen, and what I’m trying to say is that when things happen we try to talk to everyone,” Wilson said in response.
There was also debate over how the investigation was handled. Diondra Brown, president of AKA, said she was told by Wilson that the group filing the complaint could not appeal the decision made by Community Standards. At the town hall meeting, Wilson said that she learned the group could in fact file an appeal of the decision.
“Why is this information just now being communicated to us?” Brown asked.
Victims involved also found out at the panel that they could file individual complaints against members of Pike in addition to a complaint against the organization as a whole.
“I appreciate this conversation,” Yancy said. “But I think what is nauseating is the lack of transparency. It would have been great to know that someone needs to follow up on an individual complaint so we can take the appropriate actions.”
Yancy was visibly upset when this information was revealed to her during the town hall, prompted by a question from the audience.
“I silenced (the girls) that night when they were visibly upset. I said do not react. I told them to let me do all the talking because I’m sure my authority and the process is going to get this right,” Yancy remembered. “The lack of transparency about the appeal process is so disheartening.”
AKA plans to appeal the decision made by the university department of student affairs. Many members of AKA were not asked for their testimony during the event and many feel that the case was mishandled.
“It is almost inconceivable that the university has made no effort to investigate the women that were there that night,” said Cazenave.
Noticeably absent from the meeting was any member of PIKE or other non-African American sororities, which was seen as indicative of a lack of perspective and understanding shown by the groups.
“Why is it that none of the historically white sororities show their support for their fellow sororities? Is it because they don’t see them as women because they’re too busy seeing them as black, or is it instead that they align themselves with PIKE because they see themselves as being white,” Cazenave asked.
President Susan Herbst also came under fire for her lack of commitment in trying to promote a more inclusive environment.
“The Herbst administration has certainly not articulated any vision for diversity at UConn instead I’ve noticed that there has actually been a dismantling of the universities previously existing efforts to promote inclusiveness,” Cazenave said.
Herbst was also criticized for not being in attendance for the meeting.
“I remember a time when we had university professors that actually attended events like this,” said Cazenave.
In efforts to move forward, speakers addressed particular initiatives currently being made to promote a more inclusive campus environment.
“We try to hire and maintain a diverse faculty and staff,” said Wilson.
Stephanie Sponzo, a member of the student development committee of USG said “the lack of passion from the administration” was saddening, given the passion that the students affected brought to the town hall meeting.
In regards to what needs to be done about issues like these, panelist Cazenave said: “Change has to come from the top.”
Privileged White men can do whatever the heck they want without consequences. The epitome of White privilege. Black women who report harassment by nonblack men are called paranoid, playing the race card, and boys will be boys and we need to be silent. That's not right. Let's call them out on their racist sexism.