By now, the entire student body is aware of the assault that took place early this past Sunday morning, thanks to two e-mails sent out by Dr. Bonfiglio, vice president for student and campus life. The first e-mail provided a brief summary of what little was known of the incident at the time of its dissemination, and the second supplemented that preliminary report with information regarding the student and faculty response, as well as the investigative steps taken by the University Police.
I take no issue with the practice of keeping students informed of breaking and serious issues on campus; the e-mail, as well as the recent implementation of the NY-Alert System, indicates a genuine desire on the part of the administration to foster communication between itself and the student body, which I think we can all appreciate.
What does trouble me, however, is the racially-charged light in which the first e-mail was presented. In the closing paragraph, Bonfiglio stressed to the community that "violence and bias-related actions, including anti-Semitic acts, have no place on the Geneseo campus, and will not be tolerated." While this is an undeniably positive message, it seems to me that, with details still expectedly hazy the day after the incident, to couch an informative e-mail in such moralistic rhetoric was a bit injudicious.
Like many of my peers, I was appalled and dismayed while reading the e-mail. From the sounds of it, some drunkard had stumbled out of a party after uttering a number of antisemitic remarks, was confronted by concerned citizens who asked him to desist, and stabbed one of them in a rage of intolerance.
As time progressed and more students responded, however, the issue became decidedly more complex. For instance, the purported attacker's roommate is reportedly Jewish, which leads one to wonder just how anti-Semitic the accused could really be. Furthermore, according to The Lamron's sources, the alleged assailant visited the Geneseo First Response office before the stabbing, reportedly visibly shaken. He then placed a call to UP with an anonymous member of GFR. UP was unable to respond at the time, as the location of the confrontational students was unknown. The accused then left the office, only to return minutes later with a lacerated hand, the altercation having occurred during his absence from the office.
I have no intention of supporting violent actions, or belittling the significance of the event. I, however, urge everyone to exercise their own judgment when presented with blanket information. Though Bonfiglio's second e-mail did address the fact that much remains unknown about the incident, and that investigations are underway, that does not erase the subjective tone of the first. To me, to almost immediately label this incident as a bias-action incident (or hate crime), and to not present the ambiguity in the incident was an injudicious decision; the victim of the attack was not Jewish, and the degree of anti-Semitism of the assailant, like so many aspects of the incident, is unclear.
While it is imperative to promote "an equally welcoming and safe community," as Bonfiglio aptly stated, it is also important that we don't become oversensitive to issues of race and diversity, thus viewing the world through race-tinted glasses. The administration is the student body's primary outlet of information regarding campus issues and events, and must be especially judicious in fulfilling that duty.