On the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 16, the Marist student body received a concerning email from President Yellen involving several disturbances on campus. The email began:
“In the past few days, there have been a few disturbing incidents on campus that I would like to address. For example, a swastika was drawn on a bathroom stall, and a woman reported being accosted with shouts of “Go back to Africa.” Many colleges and universities around the country are reporting similar incidents.”
As Yellen was away in Florence, Italy visiting Marist’s sister campus, his office redirected comments to the Office of Safety and Security. John Blaisdell, the Director of Safety and Security, confirmed in an email that both he and his staff were aware of these incidents commenting, “They [the incidents] were either reported by or discovered through our Student Affairs Department.”
“These incidents were reported via our online conduct system,” says Deborah DiCaprio, Vice President and Dean for Student Affairs. “The swastika was found in a freshman dorm, but the other incident wasn’t officially reported. The student involved confided to a faculty member, who in turn reported the incident to us.”
The swastika was discovered in a bathroom stall in Sheehan Hall and reported by an RA.
“We don’t want to ignore it,” DiCaprio continues, referencing the “Go back to Africa” occurrence. “The student involved didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but the faculty member thought this was something that needed to be addressed. Even though it wasn’t officially reported, we need to respond.”
Wednesday also saw the advent of the Unity Project in the Murray Student Center, an effort that DiCaprio along with several students were instrumental in putting together. Sophomore Cameron Smith explains, “The goal of the Unity Project is to bring everyone together. It is to demonstrate the fact that no matter who won [the U.S. Presidential Election] and how they felt, that Marist should still keep its atmosphere. We are a community and we have to keep acting like it.”
DiCaprio insists that the students wanted to make sure that the initiative was not a demonstration, not “anti-Trump or anti-anything,” as the Unity Project could be perceived as catering to the political leanings of one sector of students, and alienate another. The undergrad activists wanted to make sure that the event was open to all students, no matter their political affiliation.
“This was a hard election to get through. People are upset. Some are voting for the first time and there really hasn’t been a truly controversial election in their lifetime,” says DiCaprio. “But it is important to note that people don’t need to worry, things aren’t just going to change like that.
Other colleges are putting out the same notices and it makes sense to follow suit, if people are upset we need to respond and we want to maintain transparency.”
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