College considers hate speech responses

College considers hate speech responses

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, racist language was found on a whiteboard in a library study room. The college informed the campus community of this in Oct. 25’s Mac Daily, noting that the perpetrator was unknown. The incident — far from the first of its kind on campus — came a few weeks before the Nov. 3 student sit-in protesting multiple forms of discrimination at Macalester. 

Dean of Multicultural Life Marjorie Trueblood and Associate Dean for Campus Life Andrew Wells hosted a community gathering in Davis Court of Markim Hall on Nov. 1, where members of the Macalester community could gather to hold space and support one another in reconciling with the recent incident of hate speech.

“My reasoning in creating these spaces is to acknowledge that something terrible has happened and sometimes we need to process the impact that these incidents have on us as individuals and community,” Trueblood wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.

Events like the recent writing of racist phrases in the library are also not uncommon at Macalester. While this is the first publicized incident this year, there have been multiple similar incidents in previous years. Generally, the college has responded by emailing students with information about the incidents and holding spaces for reflection, similar to the one held this semester. 

Trueblood said that when hate speech is reported, a number of staff on campus are involved in responding. 

“Campus Public Safety will investigate and others in the group will discuss what the response or communication should be for the campus community,” Trueblood wrote. “At this time there is not a set protocol, and things were handled on a case by case basis.”

Trueblood noted that the Title IX Coordinator and Nondiscrimination Officer position could implement a protocol if they chose to; however, that position is currently vacant. 

The college’s response to the most recent incident of hate speech was met with a lukewarm attitude from students, especially in light of other conversations around racism occurring at the same time. At the Nov. 3 student protest in Kagin, students criticized Macalester for its lack of resources and support for BIPOC and international students both following racist incidents and in general.

Students across campus have noted faults in officially-sanctioned college pathways to address bias and hate speech. Earlier this semester, Macalester College Student Government (MCSG) created the Addressing Discrimination Ad Hoc Committee, led by Eric Yu ’24. Yu decided to form the committee both due to a recent instance of transphobia on campus and due to official college offices offering insufficient responses. 

“[One focus of the ad hoc is] addressing the immediate procedure of how our college looks into discrimination cases, and first of all, whether there is an adequate procedure,” Yu said. “If we don’t think there is, we can try to improve on that.” 

Yu specifically critiqued the Title IX office, which is tasked with responding to reports of sexual violence and racial bias. He said it has provided inadequate measures for students to address these concerns. 

Trueblood, too, acknowledges that reflections aren’t a perfect way to respond to these incidents. 

“I do believe that these facilitated discussions have shortcomings,” she wrote. “There are a number of emotions that arise when these incidents and facilitated discussion don’t hold the people responsible for these acts accountable. This can be incredibly frustrating.”

Given those shortcomings, Yu described the need to educate the Macalester community on matters surrounding racial discrimination, as well as to work towards augmenting the current campus culture. 

“A lot of times at Mac students think that we’re doing so good with all this discrimination stuff because you don’t really hear about it,” Yu said. “But our college never really addressed a lot of the racial discrimination incidents that we had.”

Yu also brought up issues such as the persistent denial of the racism and racial bias of white students, and the alienation that international students at Macalester often feel from their domestic peers.

“Because the college advertises our school being so liberal, a lot of times people just come in with that mindset thinking everything’s so good, and don’t pay as much attention as they should on issues surrounding race,” Yu said. 

The Macalester community plans to keep holding events and conversations responding to issues of racism raised this semester. The Addressing Discrimination Ad Hoc Committee plans on creating a toolkit about when, where and how to report discrimination and bias. The college also recently added a Find Help page to its website, which points students to different resources including college pathways to report bias and hate speech. 

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