Blackface Halloween costume photos splashed across the news. A drug bust on Halloween that included the alleged sale of marijuana to trick-or-treaters. A stabbing. A hit-and-run death. Seems like all the news coming out of Geneseo these days is bad.
The negative publicity that Geneseo has received regarding the blackface incident, along with the alleged racially-motivated stabbing that occurred early in the semester and the drug bust on Halloween has raised concerns on the Geneseo campus about the college's reputation as it strives to achieve its goal of being the preeminent public honors college in the U.S.
One area where the college may be affected is in the recruitment of new students. Applications to Geneseo have increased over the past several years, with a record 11,000 in 2007, but it remains to be seen whether that will change.
Associate Vice President of Enrollment Services Bill Caren stated that admissions has not yet "heard much from prospective students, their parents or school counselors about the incidents… That doesn't mean that the adverse publicity isn't having a negative impact on our reputation. I suspect that it is, but people don't call you up and tell you that - they simply integrate what they hear or read into the impressions they're forming."
College officials anticipate some backlash from the number of negative incidents that recently received attention. Robert Bonfiglio, vice president of Student and Campus Life, said that the college might have some difficulty recruiting black students.
Caren went on to say that, "If there is fallout from these incidents, it will be most evident in the Rochester market," where the publicity is most conspicuous.
Both Caren and Bonfiglio emphasized that the college keeps a close record and plans on analyzing the data that they have once the end of the academic year rolls around.
"What happened in Geneseo [on Halloween] didn't only happen in Geneseo," Bonfiglio said.
He also addressed the drug bust and stabbing incident.
"In any community, there are people who exhibit bad judgment," he said. "People make bad decisions. Every year, we keep precise data about student disciplinary cases and criminal cases involving drugs, alcohol, [etc]. There is nothing unusual about this year that we can tell so far."
Student response to this issue varies.
Justin Smith, a junior, said, "Outside of Rochester, I don't think people have really hard about the incidents."
Others however, feel stronger about the issue.
"The school is getting a bad reputation, we look like white supremacist potheads," said freshman Lauren Carlevaro. "That kind of reputation will not impress prospective students, parents, or anyone."
Freshman Ashley Mervine stated that she's, "not down-playing the things that have happened here in the last semester. It's important that we address these issues, but there are much more terrible things that could happen. We're pretty lucky."
However, freshman Carla Stephan was surprised to be asked by a member of her home community, which is several hours away, if she, "had dressed in blackface for Halloween."
While the college moves forward from these problems by holding forums where members of the community can voice their opinions on the issues, Bonfiglio encouraged students to do two things to prevent Geneseo from gaining a negative image.
"First, students should… think about the consequences of their actions and put themselves in the other person's shoes," he said. "[That] goes a long way in stopping a lot of inappropriate behavior. Second, work with the authorities at the college and help them do their jobs."