By: Tabitha Torres
Salem State University is the most diverse state college in Massachusetts. We, ourselves, take pride in our inclusiveness to other races and ethnicities, our openness to different gender identities, and the idea that we welcome anyone from all walks of life onto our campus. The question we must ask ourselves is: how does the most diverse campus end up with racist graffiti on their baseball field?
Last Friday, September 29, a hateful message was spray-painted onto a bench next to the baseball field behind Atlantic Hall. Next to it, another message read, “Whites Only USA.” The graffiti comes only nine months after President Trump’s election, an event that has seemed to stir the pot and awaken beliefs from members of our community no one had anticipated.
President John Keenan quickly sent out an email to students and faculty alerting them of the incident, stating, “Salem State has no tolerance for discrimination and hate, and we strongly reject and condemn this message. This deeply troubling language has no place at our university as we strive to be as inclusive a campus as possible.” The graffiti was removed before nightfall.
While the response was produced in a timely fashion, some students and faculty members have expressed that this statement was not enough to diffuse the situation. This graffiti follows an incident that occurred back in the spring where Salem State’s Twitter account was compromised, the hacker spewing hateful and racist messages about the school’s ideologies and beliefs. Many agree that the administration needs to be doing more than just saying that they apologize and reject the message. Students have been left feeling uncomfortable, unsafe, and most importantly, unwelcome on a campus that they are supposed to call their university—and to some, their home.
Many students are extremely disappointed in the actions taken by the administration and the Salem State police. Most seem to be asking the same questions: How did this happen? How did we let this happen? How do we stop it? In situations like these, it is important to realize that these people who commit acts of hate speech and racial violence do not wake up with these beliefs. They are deeply imbedded, ingrained, and perpetuated across our culture. Even on the most diverse campus in Massachusetts. These people have been waiting quietly for the time they feel is right to express their beliefs. It certainly does not mean this will ever be the last time.
So, what can be done? What can we do as a community to stand up and say, “We don’t agree with this. We won’t stand for this. We won’t allow it to show its face on our campus.” People only feel comfortable showcasing their beliefs when they are given a platform to do so. To continue to silence these behaviors, the student and administrative body must come together, as one, to stand and say that this is not allowed here. Simply “rejecting the message” no longer becomes good enough when this is the second or third incident of hate speech. Occurring at the “most diverse campus” in Massachusetts. We must realize that these graffiti and Twitter-hackers could be our classmates, members of our community, or even members of Salem. They are the people we smile at and look into their eyes daily.
President Keenan will be holding an open forum on Thursday, October 5th from 12:15 to 1:30 on McKeown Plaza, located on North Campus, outside of the Frederick Berry Library and Learning Commons.
In an email to students, alumni, faculty and staff, President Keenan stated “The event will include voices from students, faculty, Salem State’s leadership, Salem State Alumna Mayor Kimberley Driscoll ’87, and the Anti-Defamation League. The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Salem State University and The Salem No Place for Hate Committee will also be in attendance.”
President Keenan stated: “As university police continue to investigate who is responsible for this hate-based graffiti, we also believe it is important to come together as a community to listen and learn how we can better support all members of our campus on a daily basis. We are committed to being as inclusive a campus as possible and know there is much work to be done.