Staff Editorial: Campus community must not let racism be Geneseo's 'fad' issue

For many people, one of the most attractive aspects of Geneseo is its quaint, small, college-town atmosphere. Undoubtedly, it was the ingrained idea of Geneseo as a largely conflict-free environment that made it such a surprise to many in the community last year when the student group Fighting Against Racial Injustice formed and made the courageous statement that Geneseo is, for many minority students, not the nurturing environment many of us consider it to be. The group proclaimed their message that in fact, minority students, particularly blacks, feel alienated and oppressed on this campus.

Since that time, the issue of racism has risen to the forefront of campus discussion, as highlighted by yesterday's President's Lecture on Diversity, in which hundreds packed Newton's largest lecture hall for a presentation from FARI about student attitudes towards diversity and racism, and alarming statistics from psychology professor Monica Schneider of the College Commission on Community and Diversity on the way many minority students feel alienated and discriminated against in our community.

President Dahl's speech, the culminating feature of the event, did not attempt to gloss over the reality of the racist environment that students have experienced, and his challenge to the audience members to commit themselves to the betterment of the College and themselves by confronting underlying racist ideas is the right approach to the issue at this time.

But an item that Dahl appropriately chose to emphasize was the fact that Geneseo is at the beginning of a long, arduous process to work towards a truly welcoming, nurturing environment for all people. This notion emphasizes the danger that the community faces at this point: the possibility that we consider our acknowledgement of the issue (a fact made clear by the massive turnout to yesterday's lecture) the total embodiment of our response, and leave it at that.

While the first step in the process is fundamental, our future collective efforts through discussion and action will prove the real test of our commitment to being a community that embraces and utilizes diversity for the benefit of all.

While each of us must view the call as an individual initiative, the College undoubtedly has a major responsibility to facilitate future action on this problem. Upcoming events (including a planned racism teach-in and the ongoing deliberative dialogues) rightfully will address the issue, and the College must ensure that addressing diversity and racism issues in campus-wide discourse must be more than a "fad" that exists for only a limited time outside the realm of the College's Commission on Community and Diversity.

We at The Lamron applaud the efforts of students and faculty who brought this issue to the attention of many who had previously believed it a non-issue on our campus. Now that this has been done, it is the responsibility of the College, along with each and every student, faculty and staff member to make certain we do not rest until our campus is swept clean of the last vestiges of hate and intolerance.