Campuses across Pa. reeling from racial bias incidents

(photo courtesy Cabrini)

(photo courtesy Cabrini)

Students at Cabrini University are reeling after two more bias incidents were reported on campus this week, days after an African-American student discovered a racial slur written on her dormitory door.

Cabrini, in Montgomery County, is one of several colleges and universities across Pennsylvania coping with recent racial incidents.

Jeff Gingerich, Cabrini’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, said the campus’ No. 1 priority is to keep students safe.

“We’ve increased the amount of public safety on campus, and our police are doing extra drive-throughs throughout campus as well,” he said. “So we’re trying to help students feel secure on campus while the open investigation goes on.”

The latest racist messages were discovered this week on residence hall doors of African-American students and white students who support them.

Campus police have not identified a suspect, but are working closely with police in Radnor, Montgomery County, to investigate.

The first message was discovered Saturday; someone had written “Go away n—–” on the dorm room door of Sennia Vann. Because she is the only African-American in the room, Vann knew the message was directed at her.

“I was shocked, angry and confused as to why something like that would be written on my door,” Vann told Channel 6 Action News.

Gingerich said the latest rash of hate has shocked the small Catholic, liberal arts college of 3,000 students whose mission statement declares it aims to produce “engaged citizens of the world.” But he’s proud of the way the community has reacted to the incident. Many students in Vann’s residence hall decorated the hallways with posters of love, peace and encouragement. 

“In their shock, they have responded in beautiful ways by making sure the students who were targeted in these incidents, that they feel welcome, that they know they are loved, that they have complete support on campus,” Gingerich said.

Several other college campuses have experienced racial incidents lately. 

In Philadelphia,Temple University police have identified a student involved in an incident in which a banana was found on the residence hall doorknob of African-American students.

Temple student government president Tyrell Mann-Barnes is turning his initial disgust into determination as he strives to use the incident as a teachable moment.

“I guess the question I was asking is, what do we do next?” Mann-Barnes said. “What are the educational components that teach students about cultural competence?”

Mann-Barnes is planning a series of student forums in the months ahead so that all voices can be heard.

Former football stars Marcus Allen and Jason Cabinda have criticized Penn State after a white supremicist group posted racist fliers around campus. 

And white nationalists entered campuses at Millersville University and Elizabethtown College uninvited to kick off a recruitment campaign at the beginning of the school year by displaying posters urging students to join the group “Identity Evropa.”

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission said, anecdotally, it has seen an uptick of bias incidents across the commonwealth this year.

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