THE SANTA CLARA
October 20, 2016
What do racist slurs posted on Yik Yak, vandalism of the mock border wall, a swastika slathered in blood in an elevator and homophobic and transphobic slurs written on a hallway poster have in common? They have all occurred on Santa Clara’s campus, the latter two in the last few weeks.
Looking back as a senior, these are a few of the incidents that have impacted students during my college experience. Students older than me witnessed some of these acts of discrimination, I have witnessed them and students younger than me will also long after I receive my diploma. Though the specific acts may change, every student graduates with the knowledge of Santa Clara’s story of discrimination.
A few weeks ago, two female students vandalized the art installation of 43 wooden silhouettes which represented the 43 Mexican students who were kidnapped and presumably killed in 2014. One of the wooden silhouettes was broken in half and the entire display was removed shortly after.
The administration did not alert the students of the vandalism. Professor Dennis Gordon took it upon himself to send an email to the faculty explaining the situation. He encouraged the faculty to show support for freedom of expression and “protest against the ignorance and racism which lies behind the vandalism.”
Anonymous student group SCUWatch leaked surveillance footage showing scores of drunk students kicking, punching and mowing down the wooden silhouettes over the course of one weekend.
However, this footage is not from the same weekend during which the previously mentioned vandalism occurred. It is telling that even before the display was visibly damaged, students had been extremely disrespectful of the display and insensitive to the meaning behind it.
In response to the vandalism, University President Father Michael Engh, S.J., published an editorial in the newspaper in which he encouraged our campus community to come together in the aftermath of such events. He also said, “Some members of the community” thought these acts were “symptomatic of a larger problem surrounding inclusion at Santa Clara.”
It was a plea to the student body to uphold the ideal of solidarity we are so fond of talking about. He wrote, “To achieve these goals, we must first start with an honest conversation. Let us engage in dialogue that is not destructive, but constructive.”
To engage in honest conversation, we need an administration that has the courage to be direct and honest with us.
When such blatantly prejudicial acts happen, the students deserve to be promptly notified and made aware of the details. It is one of the best ways the administration can give credit to the severity of the actions and show transparency.
We especially need a president that can openly admit that racism and prejudice are the motivation behind such acts. To blow off the underlying causes of these events is to ignore the root of the problem.
Although Father Engh strongly denounced the acts and promoted concrete ways students can make a change on campus, such as attending Unity 4 dialogues, he would be doing a greater service to the us by being straightforward and open about the source of injustice.
Acknowledging that bias is a problem within our student body is not to the same as saying that it is more prevalent here than anywhere else. Accepting that prejudice exists within our community simply shows us that holding the title of a Jesuit institution does not make us exempt from the intolerance that plagues our society.
When racist and narrow-minded ideologies show themselves in the form of actions, we are forced to reckon with the ugly truth. In order to move towards a more inclusive campus community, we need an administration that is willing to publicly accept the truth: motivation matters and the motivation is prejudice.
Lindsay Tenes is a senior environmental studies major.
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University