There have been multiple incidents that the University Police Department has classified as “bias related” that have occurred in residence halls over the past month. None of these events have caused widespread impact for residents, according to Student Life staff.
Three incidents happened in residence halls across campus since the beginning of the semester, according to an e-mail from University Police Chief Thomas Kilcullen. Out of these three incidents, one case occurred in Niagara Hall, where a student wrote a discriminatory message on another student’s personal whiteboard, according to Resident Director of Niagara Hall Autumn Arnold. The second case took place in Erie Hall; a student wrote “Mein Kampf (jk I’m not racist)” on a board that asked for recommendations for LGBTQ+ books, according to Area Coordinator of Erie and Steuben Halls Molly Downey.
“The RA on duty called UPD and they took a picture of it, they took a report of it and they investigate all incidents,” Downey said. “It was an unfortunate situation we saw as an educational opportunity … We want to make sure we’re reaching everyone in the hall, reaching everyone on campus to make sure that they feel included and they feel welcomed into the community.”
These events, although reportedly isolated, can still contribute to creating a hostile environment on campus for students of different races, genders, religions, sexualities and other identities, according to Arnold.
“The incidents that have happened on campus in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter in terms of what was said or done,” Arnold said. “But they can still instigate and create a chilly climate on this campus.”
Student Life staff immediately set up mandatory floor meetings and activities designed to help students talk about their identities and offer students resources, according to Downey. The incidents are opportunities to educate students on the impacts of their actions and possible unconscious biases they may have, Downey said.
To some students, these incidents are seen more as acts of ignorance rather than intentional hate, according to resident of Erie sophomore Leliana McDermott.
“I think whoever did it was joking, but I think that if you’re able to make that joke you must be more ignorant and not have a very good grasp on privilege,” McDermott said. “I personally wasn’t hurt or anything by it because I understood that it didn’t come from a place of malice, but from an uneducated standpoint.”
If UPD discovers the perpetrator or perpetrators of these actions, they will go through the school’s conduct system—based on the Code of Conduct—and face potential disciplinary action, according to Downey.
“There’s always a bit of concern involved in a situation like this even if it is unique, even if it is a one-time thing,” Downey said. “It’s not like something that’s representing an entire mindset of the campus and I think it’s one person that didn’t think things through all that well.”u