#StandUpDominican: Racially Motivated Incidents Prompt Immediate University Action

October 18, 2016

By Jonathan De Leon, Melissa Rohman and Emily Lapinski

Amid the recent and past acts of racism and social injustice on campus, including a recent report of a swastika drawn in the elevator in Coughlin Hall and racial epithets being traced on student’s cars in the east lot, Dominican held two open forums and released a video from President Donna Carroll to address the incidents. 

The two forums held Oct. 12 and Oct. 17 allowed students and faculty to voice their opinions about the events as well as discuss plans of action.

The sessions started with small group discussions before coming back together to talk about the problem and possible solutions as a whole.  

“A lot of people are upset that nothing is happening,” said English Professor Jane Hseu.

Director of University Ministry, John DeCostanza, voiced his opinions regarding the past and present indicants targeting African American students. 

“Have we been direct enough in valuing black life? No we have not,” DeCostanza said. “We want black students that feel targeted at the center [of our focus].”

Senior Khyeria Ferguson challenged administrative staff, calling for “physical action”.

“Although you may be afraid of the possible backlash that could come, this is a university and it’s here to serve the students first,” Ferguson said.

Other students that attended the open forum in the Rosary Chapel called for offering diversity training to students, faculty and staff. 

President Donna Carroll spoke at the forum as well. 

“How do we respond to the random act of racism in the parking lot? Do I write another letter? No, that doesn’t get us anywhere further,” said Carroll.  “That’s why I’m here to find the answers.” 

In addition to the two open forums, members of the administration sent out emails expressing their concerns and calls to action.

In an email sent to all students, faculty and staff on Oct. 11, Trudi Goggin, dean of students, said, “Acts of hatred and ignorance like this are not tolerated at Dominican University, nor are they part of creating a more just and humane world. When anyone suffers in our community, we all suffer.”

Robert Babcock, director of residence life, sent out an email to resident students.

“While this is an affront to all Dominican community members, it is something different as well to resident students, as this is your home,” he said. “It’s one thing to experience this type of hatred where you go to school, and it can be quite another thing when it happens where you live. I speak for the entire residence life staff when I say we are hurt, saddened and angered something like this would happen here.”

According to Babcock, Dominican has reviewed all available surveillance information but has not found anything. 

Chief Diversity Officer, Sheila Radford-Hill, encouraged the Dominican community to sign a declaration of the value of all life. A link to submit an online endorsement was included in an email she sent to the Dominican community. You can see the names of the individuals that signed the letter on the Dominican website.  

On Friday, Oct. 14, Dominican released a video addressing the recent incidents. In the video, President Donna Carroll said, “This is a hate crime, currently under investigation by Public Safety and the River Forest Police Department. Students, faculty and staff expect our campus to be a safe place where they can go for comfort and support. We are failing our Black sisters and brothers and our mission if we don’t stand against racism and violence…we will be accountable and I will be accountable.”   

If anyone has any information regarding the racially motivated incidents, they are encouraged by the administration to come forward.