election of President Donald Trump, America has come to realize it is a nation divided. Articles have been written suggesting ways and theories America may overcome this divide, with reports from places such as the Seapoint Center, calling for more dialogue as the solution. Since the 60s, university and college campuses have been breeding grounds for First Amendment rallies and protection. Universities have not been immune to the divide facing America, politically, ideologically, racially, and economically. Last year saw large disruptions on campuses such as UC Berkeley over high profile and controversial speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos. One group of students passionate about a topic or speaker has been met with another group of students equally passionate on the opposite side of the issue and either with negative views of the other's speaker, or more passionate about a different person.
While not in the same exact situation, LMU has also seen the divide on campus. Recently, new or strengthened diversity and inclusion programs have been created, and events and policies have been implemented on campus. After a vandalization of an immigration week installation in spring 2016 led to campus-wide protests and citywide media coverage, LMU revised its Freedom of Expression policy to better reflect the University’s expectation on students. As reported by the Loyolan, the policy before its updates read: “As an academic community, the University is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge. Therefore, persons, organizations or groups have the freedom to present various points of view without physical restrictions, disruption or intimidation by others. Such inappropriate behaviors are contrary to the University’s mission and will not be tolerated.” After review, the original policy still stands but is now just one part of a two page Freedom of Expression and Dissent policy, that defines dissent and how the university expects students to show dissenting opinions, as well as coercive disruption and behavior that will not be tolerated.
Since the 2016
2017 the hashtag #BlackatLMU started on Twitter, with the first user commenting on the predominantly black dance team, Lion Pride, dancing in the stands with the crowd, out of uniform, while the predominantly white cheer team danced on the sidelines, in uniform. Lion Pride told the Loyolan that they were not told they could not perform at halftime and were not being punished. Students and alumni continued to use the hashtag, sharing “micro-aggressions” they experienced on campus. The Loyolan reported that ASLMU Senator for Diversity and Inclusion, Vandalena Mahoney met with the university administration to share #BlackatLMU’s mission statement. The mission statement shared by Mahoney said that #BlackatLMU is a movement that aims to promote and stimulate positive change in the community.
“It is not about bashing the university, or bashing white people,” the post said. “#BlackatLMU is about providing a platform where Black experiences are shared, acknowledged and validated [...] We hope this movement will serve as a catalyst for a more inclusive campus environment.” Even though Mahoney met with school administration the administration did not address the movement or mission statement and remained silent on the issues students addressed in the hashtag.
the start of the #BlackatLMU hashtag, another social media-focused incident began to spread among student social media. The original post, now deleted, was found on Twitter and later widely circulated on Facebook, with a screenshot of a Snapchat showing elementary school students on a campus tour with MeChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán) de LMU, standing in front of the Christmas tree on Regents Terrace. Text over the photo read "Just me and all my peers… oh wait, these are lower socioeconomic minority students that LMU buses in for tours and uses affirmative action to get them in later on!!!!"
The sender’s name was not included in the screenshots circulated on social media, however, it began to be rumored on campus that the sender was a senator from ASLMU. The alleged senator, Katie Porter denied sending it on her personal facebook Facebook and in person at ASLMU meetings held on the topic. Porter later resigned from ASLMU, the day the organization was set to begin impeachment procedures for her, citing a toxic environment.
On December 6, the University Provost and Senior VP for Student Affairs released a joint statement disowning the sentiments of the sender, under the advisement of BIRT, LMU’s Bias Incident Response Team. There was no mention of further action that will be taken. MeChA and BSU (Black Student Union) released a joint statement calling on BIRT to release campus security footage of Regent’s Terrace during the timeframe the snap was taken. The letter also includes the following important points: Clarifying that the touring school funded their own trip, Calling out the University [administration] for its lack of action in prior incidents such as this, as well as a connection to LMU’s Five Pillars. There was no response from BIRT.
On December 20th – 2 weeks after the incident – there is a Public Safety Advisory in LMU’s Weekly Student Email. It reads “Public Safety, in consultation with Student Affairs, is conducting an investigation regarding the offensive and hurtful social media post that was circulated via Snapchat on Dec. 5. Once the investigation is completed, the appropriate university policies, procedures, and protocols will be followed. Should violations of the law or student conduct code be revealed, appropriate steps will be taken to address investigatory outcomes.” There has been no further comment from the University on the situation.
A Month after
have also faced similar incidents. Recently, on April 9th at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a photo of Lambda Chi Alpha member, Kyler Watkins, surfaced. He is in blatant blackface at a fraternity party where other members of the organization appear to be dressed in stereotypical ‘gang’ attire, with fake tattoos, bandanas, etc. The president of the fraternity’s chapter denies any racial implications and instead says that the painted color had more to do with Watkins’ family within the fraternity. The chapter is then placed on interim suspension while the University investigates.
The Editor-in-Chief of Cal Poly SLO’s newspaper MustangNews soon calls for the President of the University to resign for not listening to students and taking concerns seriously. In her letter, she claims that he has not done enough for students of color at the university. As a response, all Cal Poly Greek life was suspended indefinitely. Students for Quality Education, an organization that helped contribute to a protest during the University’s Open House for prospective students, also assisted in creating a very clear action plan for the university to better protect “historically marginalized individuals”. Despite their action plan, racist propaganda was posted around campus, and posters promoting diversity were vandalized. Events on this campus are very recent and ongoing, but they can be followed on the MustangNews website, which updates regularly with new information.
Photos courtesy of Mustang News.
at LMU and Cal Poly SLO show these incidents are not isolated. These incidents took place in the “most liberal state in the country”. They affect, and will continue to affect, students until university administration takes them seriously. Students at LMU voice their concerns and band together via social media, similar to students at Cal Poly SLO. Conversations surrounding topics of race, diversity, and inclusion can become heated fast, as student interviews reveal, deterring from participation or follow up. Opinions are kept to oneself or within safe spaces, because when they aren’t, situations can become volatile– as happened when Star Parker, conservative speaker, was invited to campus earlier this semester. These interviews reveal the underlying cause of the silence surrounding these topics as a lack of productive/open conversation on the campus. Additionally, the feeling of being brushed aside by administration can be seen as excusing the actions of students who commit biased actions towards marginalized groups.