Students fall victim to racial slurs

Administrators, student leaders express outrage toward bias incident against fourth-year students

Two female fourth-year University students were subjects of a racial bias incident last Thursday morning outside of Cohn's on the Corner.

The two students - one of whom is white while the other is Togolese-American - were returning home around 2 a.m. when they were approached by a group of white, male first-year students. The men commented on the pair's "'multiculturalism'" and shouted racial slurs at them repeatedly, according to one of the victims of the incident, who wished to remain anonymous. There is no confirmation as to whether the men were intoxicated.

"There is certainly a history of incidents like this," one of the victims said. "They happen on a regular basis at U.Va. We've gotten better at dealing with them, and we certainly have a long way to go. That these incidents happen at all is indicative of deeply rooted problems in the racial dynamics at U.Va."

The women used the Just Report It system to notify University administrators, and the incident is being handled by Dean of Students Allen Groves, Assoc. Dean of Students Aaron Laushway and Patricia Lampkin, the vice president for student affairs.

"Upon our receipt of the report, Associate Dean Aaron Laushway, the dean on call that day, immediately reached out to the student who had made the report," Groves stated in an e-mail. "He subsequently spoke with two other students who appeared to have pertinent information regarding the incident and continued to investigate the surrounding facts. Vice President Lampkin has also spoken with two of the students who were directly impacted by the slur, and I understand that we are in contact with the student believed to have uttered it."

The administrators now are looking at how to engage that student in a productive and educational manner, Groves said.

"We will also continue to offer support to the students directly impacted by it, as well as any other students who wish to talk about it with us; This is a resilient and strong community," he said.\nSuch support is intended to fortify the University community. This may be particularly necessary, Black Student Alliance President Lauren Boswell said, when considering there is potential for a large section of the community to be debilitated by the use of such racial slurs.

"Although this is an isolated incident, one comment can shake up a whole demographic of people at the University," Boswell said, "not just African-Americans, but anyone who identifies with a minority or multiculturalism."

The victim said she hopes the students involved will face the appropriate repercussions.

"I want to let them know that their behavior is disgusting and allow them to come to the shameful realization that they have deeply and morally wronged two of their fellow students," she said, adding that she wants the University Judiciary Council to have the ability to penalize the perpetrators, an ability she believes is absent in the current code.

The response should include a strong, official condemnation of the use of racial slurs, Boswell said.

"It is time for the University to step up and make a policy that explicitly makes the use of racial slurs a breach of the community of trust," Boswell said.

The Minority Rights Coalition responded to the incident with an e-mail urging University community members to do what they can to prevent similar incidents from occurring.

"How do we move forward, as a community?" MRC officials stated in an e-mail. "How do we push past the hurt and pain so wrongly inflicted upon our friends? The answer: it is up to us. We, as members of this University, must take ownership of our community. We are responsible for taking actions, starting conversations and thinking critically to enact change."

Last night, Student Council President Colin Hood released a public statement about the incident. In a video posted on the UVAStudentCouncil channel on Youtube, he urged the community to fight against incidents like this and promised to work to prevent similar incidents in the future.

"Each student deserves to enjoy and prosper in our academical village," Hood said. "These acts are not only offensive but also contradict our institutional values. Therefore, as a student body, we cannot stand for such blatant discrimination and intolerance."

The victim and her friend are both committed to continue conversations with the administration about the incident and race relations at the University, the victim said.

"But really it is the responsibility of the larger U.Va community to both stand up for us and make us feel that we do have a community of trust here," she said. "Just make a statement that U.Va is better than this"

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