Community Matters

By Jonas Buck

About 75 students attended the Community Matters forum Tuesday afternoon in Kagin, discussing homophobic comments and a racial slur written on the wall of the grate area during the fall semester.The forum, organized by Macalester’s Community Matters Committee, is part of an ongoing effort to address hate incidents and foster dialogue about diversity at Macalester.

Students and faculty gathered for two hours to express their feelings on Macalester’s community and its values, discrimination, and the school’s response to the incident.

To begin the event, American Studies Professor Karin Aguilar-San Juan engaged in a facilitated discussion with two students, Vera Sidlova ’11 and Jason Rodney ’10. Although interested in the matter, all of them expressed a distinct feeling of detachment from the incident.

When asked how they experienced these incidents and what impact it had on them, the trio did not recall feeling particularly hurt, just dispirited.

“A lot of people were upset this was happening again,” Rodney said, but stated that he personally felt “emotionally numb” to the incident.

In the fall, President Brian Rosenberg responded quickly to the hate speech with a forum put on within a week of the first incident. Several more followed during the course of the semester.

Aguilar-San Juan did not allow the students in her Schools and Prisons course to skip class in order to participate in the Fall forum, insisting it was more important for her students to learn about the disproportionate number of minority youth in the criminal justice system than just to talk.

“You can always talk, but these patterns are manifested into law,” she said.

But Professor Aguilar-San Juan expressed gratitude for Tuesday’s follow-up forum, saying she felt compelled by the idea that professors can play a role in preventing future discrimination.

Rev. K.P. Hong also made an appearance at Tuesday’s forum. He encouraged the attendees to engage in dialogue over lunch, with their table groups of five to seven people.

“Always in dialogue I am given the gift of where I am not sufficient,” he said, encouraging the audience to contribute to a cohesive, encompassing discussion.

“One thing I really appreciate that came out of this is the sense that this [school] isn’t going to be perfect, but it’s about how we respond,” said Laura Bartolomei-Hill ’10.

“I’m glad to see everyone,” Dean of Students Jim Hoppe said after the forum. “It’s important to think about this as something we’re doing rather than working towards.

“We have a vehicle already in place for responding to these incidents.”

Still, some were not as pleased.

Sophomore Clara Younge said she would not be surprised if another racially motivated slur were to show up somewhere on campus.

“I can’t say I’m completely satisfied, but I don’t know what else they can do,” Younge said.