BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO // NOV. 17, 2016 //
The rain and cold weather Tuesday evening didn’t deter a small yet dedicated group of students from speaking out against recent hate speech incidents on campus.
Approximately 30 members of the Curry community stood outside the Student Center Tuesday night for two hours, chanting, marching and encouraging classmates to condemn hate speech of any kind. The group primarily consisted of students, although a few professors and staff attended as well.
The demonstration followed three separate hate speech incidents in recent months. According to a campus-wide email sent Nov. 10 by Provost David Szczerbacki and Maryellen Kiley, vice president of Student Affairs, the incidents included “verbal and written hate speech…with bias-related graffiti ranging from a racial epithet, to an anti-Semitic symbol, to a political comment directed against the transgender community.”
The incidents, which occurred in NCRH and Lombard Hall, were reported to the Milton Police Department. According to Milton Deputy Chief James O’Neil, all three are still under investigation.
The Nov. 10 email to the Curry community was the first time many people on campus learned of the incidents, which date back to Oct. 7.
“Let’s face it, [Curry College] is…a business,” said Katelynn Stalaboin, a sophomore Communication major and one of the organizers of the protest. “They need to protect the business. But at what cost? Are we going to compromise our values and brush hate crimes under the rug?”
Administrators did report, in the college-wide email, that they conducted “outreach and support in the residence halls, and the engagement of campus groups representing multiple constituencies.” An open campus forum, hosted by Kiley and Jennifer Balboni, a Criminal Justice professor, was also held on Nov. 10 to discuss the recent presidential election. A crowd of approximately 30 students, faculty, and staff discussed their fears and concerns about Donald Trump’s future presidency, given his inflammatory and often offensive rhetoric throughout the campaign, as well as the recent hate speech incidents on campus.
Those outside the Student Center Tuesday said they were not protesting the president-elect. Rather, they wanted to bring attention to a persistent problem on campus. A Facebook group page originally created to mobilize demonstrators was quickly flooded with posts in which Curry students told stories of how they have felt discriminated on campus.
“Make it known in our community that these past weeks’ hate crimes and those that have come before WILL NOT be tolerated,” read a post by junior English major Sam Piscitelli.
Standing in the rain Tuesday, demonstrators said they hope college officials will hear their cries and make some noticeable changes.
“We’re hoping to inspire [the Curry community] to stand up to look for changes in policy on how [hate crimes] are handled, and to come together as a community to stop all the hatred going around,” said Kendall Graham, a junior English major.
“I’m hoping to bring attention to this issue because a lot of people are just kind of brushing it under the carpet and not really making a big deal when it is,” added Victoria Parks, a sophomore Psychology major.
Piscitelli and junior Communication major Randyll Collum, “who is living on this campus every day in fear that attacks will be made,” were among the others leaders of the demonstration.
“I’m hoping that my friends and people of this community will be able to walk safe at night or any other time of the day,” Collum added. “I hope that they can sleep in bed at night without being in fear. I hope that the administration does more to keep the community together.”
Among the common sentiments at the protest was a desire that the administration quickly, fully and honestly communicate with students whenever incidents arise on campus. Handling hate speech crimes on a dorm-by-dorm basis only serves to contain the spread of information, they said. As a result, rumors, fear and a lack of trust fill the void.
“I feel like a lot of people aren’t even aware of what’s going on on campus, and they need to know,” said Erin Scanlon, a sophomore Psychology major.
“We want to convey a message that we don’t approve of the hate that has been going on on campus,” said Hayden Lombardozzi, a junior Criminal Justice major. “We see what’s happening and we don’t like it. Curry needs to be a place where everyone deserves to be safe. No one should feel unsafe in a community they pay so much money to go to.”
Lombardozzi stood blindfolded at the demonstration, holding a poster board that explained he and others have been targets of hate speech on campus because they are transgender. Lombordozzi called on students to sign his shirt in an act of solidarity and support.
“I’m just proud that the students are able to take a stand for things that matter to them and that they are standing up against hate and intolerance,” said Si Pearman, First Year coordinator and faculty advisor for the Gender Sexuality Alliance student group. “I think it’s really important that the administration [continues to] sit down and give ear to the students. More than just dialog, conversation that turns into action.”