Albany incident shows there’s still work to be done on campuses
Potential racially-motivated assault is part of larger issue
We’ve seen the headlines across the country. From protests calling for the president of the University of Missouri to resign, to demonstrations at Yale University over several racial incidents, to the “White Only” art project controversy right here at UB, race has been a hot-button issue for college campuses across the country over the past few months.
And that continued this weekend at a fellow SUNY campus.
Three black female students at SUNY Albany say they were assaulted and harassed on a city bus Friday night by about 10 to 12 white men and women. The students allege their attackers used racial slurs during the attack, which occurred after an argument. The Albany Police Department said it is looking into the incident as a possible hate crime and SUNY Albany President Robert Jones released a statement to the campus that he was “deeply concerned, saddened and angry about this incident and would return to the campus to address the issue.
If racial slurs were used and the assault was motivated by race, the incident is an embarrassing reminder that campuses and – we as college students – still have a long way to go when it comes to race relations on campus.
It starts with making sure incidents – such as Albany’s – don’t go unnoticed and the suspects don’t go unpunished. There must be a precedent set that this kind of behavior is beyond unacceptable and closer to intolerable.
Jones has said that if the suspects are students, the university will hold them accountable. Many students who go through university judicial system end up getting let off with community service or some other small sentence, but in this case, that could be dangerous. It sends a message that crimes like these are OK.
If the suspects are students at Albany and did use racial slurs and police do find their actions to be hate crimes, they should be expelled.
For most campuses across the country, black students are not the majority. They, or any race of students, shouldn’t have to worry about begin targeted for their race. No matter their color, all students have the same right to feel safety and seek help on campus.
If a precedent isn’t set, discrimination and racially motivated attacks will continue.
We hope SUNY Albany takes this incident seriously. It appears they are. Jones was traveling during the time of the incident but said he would be cutting his trip short to return to campus and deal with the situation. We’d only hope that President Satish Tripathi would do the same if an incident such as this would was to ever occur at UB.
We’ve seen how incidents dealing with race have affected our own campus. Although the “White Only” and “Black Only” signs were for a class art project and not a hate crime, it created a dialogue and discussion about race at UB. Student leaders in the Black Student Union and the Student Association helped facilitate this, which led to larger discussion within UB’s administration.
Having these kinds of discussions increase awareness and lessen the chance of a racial-motivated incident breaking out on campus or on a city bus.
But this entire issue is truly larger than any SUNY school – it’s bigger than any campus; it’s a national problem.
The racial tension is growing across the country. We’ve seen the riots in places like Ferguson and Baltimore over police brutality. We’ve seen an “us versus them” ideology and rhetoric in the campaigns for the upcoming presidential election.
This ideology will tear apart the country until we collectively and continuously take action against racism.
But progress comes slowly and on the ground level. We can only hope that justice will be served for the three Albany students who were attacked. It’s a small first step – but a step nonetheless.
The editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org