Daily Egyptian poll: The campus community’s response to racism

By Anna Spoerre, @AnnaSpoerre

Seventy percent of faculty and 77 percent of students believe racism exists on campus, according to a straw poll conducted this month by the Daily Egyptian in response to recent racial incidents on campus.

The anonymous poll, which ran April 15 through April 18, collected 1,293 responses — 44 from faculty and 1,249 from students.

“I am a faculty member who has, on several occasions tried to bring up the issue of racism to my administration (Director and Dean) only to be disregarded,” one respondent wrote. “My program has very low inclusion of people of color and women, and yet, nothing is done. Racism is institutional, and it is personal at this university … This threatens our students safety and feelings of belonging.”

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Others who commented defended the university.

“I’ve personally never seen any sort of racially charged incident take place on campus,” one student wrote. “I think the university does more than enough to make sure we have an inclusive campus.”

Sixteen percent of faculty and 19 percent of students who responded said they do not feel welcome on campus.

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“I have friends that are scared of going to the dining hall because of the looks they get, people are constantly whispering names like “monkey” and “ape” under their breath,” another wrote. “Students and faculty has [sic] made it very clear that minorities are not welcome here.”

And that perceived racism doesn’t just extend to American students, one person wrote.

“I am an international student and most of the time in campus I feel that white people don’t like me and want to avoid me,” another said. 

Others said it seems the university only addresses racism between black and white students.

“Latinos experience racism here too and are left out of these talks,” a student said. “Inclusivity should include all people of color not just African Americans.”

This survey was conducted after a student living in Brown Hall made a video relaying racism she experienced in her dorm earlier this month.

MORE: Minorities at SIU feel ‘accepted, but not welcomed’

In response to her video, which has since gained more than 150,000 views, interim Chancellor Bradley Colwell sent out a number of emails addressing the racism, saying the university is investigating the event.

MORE: Chancellor responds to Facebook video detailing on-campus racism | Chancellor urges students to join racial conversation, plans for more inclusive future

“I can say though that the way the university responded was the best way possible at this time and moment,” a respondent wrote. “The school can not risk anything at this current time, and drawing a large amount of attention towards the school at this time can cause financial issues. If it was at any other time I would say that the university handled it inappropriately but at this time, and what we are going through as a school it was the appropriate response.”

Another commenter defended Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump amid allegations of racism against his supporters.

“I think that people need to stop being so sensitive and taking everything so seriously,” one student wrote. “I also believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and should not be punished or yelled at for it. People need to grow up and realize that there are other opinions than their own and need to stop throwing hissy fits about it. Also, IT IS NOT RACIST TO TALK ABOUT DONALD TRUMP. He is a serious presidential candidate and people have the right to support him if they want.”

The university also held a listening session last Wednesday to discuss racism on campus.

MORE: Center holds first student listening session in years

“I think everyone should be required to be educated on cultural differences that occur around the world and especially on campus,” one person wrote. “These things are important when SIUC is such a diverse campus. I hope you will truly consider this, because ignorance fuels this hate. And you can get rid of that fuel by educating everyone.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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