Over Homecoming Weekend, the Gustavus community was rattled by an incident that involved a racial slur aimed at a Gustavus student. In response to the incident, two events were held the following week to address hate and bias in the community and aid the community healing process and statements were issued by both Student Senate and the Diversity Leadership Council.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Chaplains’ Office hosted the Daily Sabbath service, during which Associate Provost Darrin Good spoke along with two other members of the Gustavus community to address how the campus should respond to such incidents.
“Though we have prejudices, each one of us must constantly try to be better. It takes being intentional and honest to do the right thing, especially when doing so is not popular among your peers,” Good said. “However, each one of us must look into our heart and mind–admit your biases–and vow to be a better person . . . vow to love and respect all people.”
In addition, a town hall forum was held on Oct. 10. Hosted by the Diversity Center, Chaplains’ Office, and Provost’s Office, the goal was to help the community learn what racially motivated incidents are, to give members a chance to discuss their reactions and give feedback on how it was handled.
English Professor Phil Bryant spoke during the town hall forum. He compared his own experiences as a Gustavus student in the late 1960s with the current events.
“Hopefully it’s progressed, because it’s traumatizing to everyone. Unfortunately it’s always going to be there. You shouldn’t let it define the community,” Bryant said.
According to Bryant, the campus reaction is much more focused and organized than it was when he was a student.
“Outside of the classroom, change has to come from the students themselves. Positive energy is key. It has a great effect on the community and defines the college experience,” Bryant said. “You guys have to take charge.”
Members of the Gustavus community are working to recover from the incident.
“There’s no easy Band-Aid to fix this. Our trust is shaken,” Dean of Students JoNes VanHecke said.
Student Senate issued a resolution expressing compassion to those affected by hate and bias and supporting the offices working to help the community recover.
The resolution concludes with a commitment to creating a community of diversity and acceptance and “pledges to work with interested members of the Gustavus community to disable hate and bias on our campus.”
However, there has been controversy over how the situation was handled by other groups. Many students felt that not enough information was provided about the incident itself.
The Diversity Leadership Council (DLC) released a statement summarizing their concerns, including the consideration of this as an isolated incident.
“This is not the only time that we have seen or heard hateful expressions on our campus,” the letter said.
The DLC also mentioned concern about the manner in which the Gustavus community was informed of the hate crime itself. “We are disappointed in the level of communication regarding the College process in identifying incidents as hate crimes,” the letter continued.
Gusties are also looking toward the future, to how the Gustavus community can prevent such incidents from happening again.
“It saddens me to admit that I do not think we can prevent this from happening again. However, we can decrease the likelihood if we continue to support groups that challenge us to be more open-minded and welcoming,” Good said.