Low turnout marks BART forum

Only about 50 students attended the event to address recent bias incidents

Photo courtesy of Twitter | One idea that emerged at the forum was the development of benchmark sanctions describing the potential consequences of a bias incident.

The Bias Advisory and Response Team (BART) has been frequenting the inboxes of Xavier students, as three major bias incidents have occurred in the last three months.

On April 4, students woke up to another email. This one detailed not an incident but instead a forum to be held in the Bellarmine Chapel that evening. The forum aimed to address and discuss the incidents.

With fewer than than eight hours to spread the news, only about 50 students, faculty and staff were in attendance, according to Taj Smith, the director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). Smith, who facilitated the event, commented that the forum organizers wanted a higher turnout.

“We had about 50 people present, mostly Black students and other students of color,” Smith said. “I would definitely love to grow that.”

Smith wasn’t the only one to note the low attendance. First-year Quayniece Page added that she wished more White students had participated in the forum.

“Whites should come out to more events to speak their backgrounds so people can understand where they’re coming from,” Page said. “We all have the same problem, and we aren’t going to understand where other people are coming from if we don’t get their side of the story. Different races should come out to events like this so we can…fix the community as a whole because we are all one. We all live next to each other, we are all in the same community, so we might as well just unify and grow as one.”

Page also referenced a recent anti-Black slur written overnight on a Resident Assistant’s (RA) bulletin board.

“Recently it said n*****, and I am pretty sure no Black person wrote n***** on the board…but (the individual responsible) didn’t come to this event,” Page said.

Junior Shadiya Cammack emphasized the need for students to attend more events like the forum.

“People who are interested in not just the goodwill of our country, city, whatever, but the goodwill of our school should be more in attendance in events that concern students of color…,” Cammack said. “If you care about the goodwill on the whole global scale, show that you care by attending on a local scale.”

Smith described the event as “mostly with the hope of helping people process what’s happening here and hearing their feedback and getting solutions.” He continued that “hopefully more people here feel like they’re connected.”

For Dave Johnson, associate provost and Chief Student Affairs Officer, connection is the solution to the questions raised at the forum.

“I think we see these events and we witness how injurious they are for individuals in our community and populations in our community, and we know that they result in people not feeling at home here…,” Johnson said. “And that’s tremendously painful because we’re a place that is committed to trying to be a community where everyone belongs and where everyone gets to bring all their talents to contribute to this place. When these events happen, they get in the way of that goal.”

One question in particular that was raised concerned the lack of information regarding the consequences for the perpetrators of the incidents. An idea that emerged was the creation of benchmark sanctions, outlining a list of what could happen without explaining exactly what will happen. Smith said that he hopes to share these benchmark sanctions by the end of this month.

The benchmarks are two-fold: one punitive side and one educational side. Smith added that one would also likely include some aspect of restorative justice.

“Some of these instances are truly based out of ignorance, and some are intentional,” Smith said. “Education might not change that, and we might have to use another measure, but…that’s all up to the Dean of Students’ office to discern in a conduct board.”

Going forward, Johnson believes that campus-wide, people need to reflect more both on the harmful nature of the incidents as well as how they can better contribute to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“The invitation is for us to reside and spend time in that discomfort and just to be real and honest about the injury and the pain and then think about ‘how can we do more’ so that we can be a community that is more inclusive and a community where people feel at home, a community where we can collectively just be that — more of a community,” Johnson said.

Further information about the incidents can be found at the BART website, https://www.xavier.edu/dean-of-students/faq.cfm

By: Brittany Wells ~Staff Writer~