Before going to SIUE, I got a brochure from the school highlighting the percentage of students of color. After becoming a freshman at SIUE in August 2017, one of the first things I heard about was when someone posted the N-word on a black student’s door in Cougar Village.
Since then, there have been several other hateful incidents, including people yelling racial slurs from cars on campus parking lots, vandalized cars with homophobic slurs, Quad Preacher Tom Rayborn allegedly calling trans students “demons” at the rock and conspiracy papers being put up around campus promoting autogynephilia. The number of incidents like these with no leads or regular updates for investigating is strange for a school that seems to highlight diversity and inclusivity when possible.
Today, the people who participated in those incidents were never identified. Students weren’t informed on the investigation process for the Cougar Village incident, even though SIUE offered a cash reward for any information that could lead to finding the perpetrator. At the same time, another student wrote “F--- white supremacy” on the rock in response to the racist incidents that occurred in 2017, but the school condemned the use of profanity on the rock. On Sept. 23, 2017, SIUE sent an email addressing the “offensive profanity,” which “runs counter to our campus culture” and “undermines the University’s tradition of civil discourse and respect for individuals, differences and cultures.” After all these incidents, the school sent other emails of varying quality to students about how diversity is “important,” and that hate is unacceptable on campus.
Despite how much SIUE promotes their “diverse” campus, the school seems to be using its apparent inclusivity as a front to advertise the school itself, even in brochures for incoming students. The obligatory emails and lack of action make it seem like SIUE doesn’t care for marginalized students who don’t want to be bombarded with hate—they seem to only care about keeping the school’s image clean and silencing certain protests that call out bigotry, especially bigotry that hurts minorities.
This is also apparent as many students have complained about Rayborn. Though SIUE’s honorary heads had a town hall meeting about Rayborn, according to Ryan Bieri’s Alestle article on the town hall meeting, Vice Chancellor for Administration Rich Walker said that different types of expression “gives you the option to debate or challenge your own beliefs … But the moment we start restricting what people have to say … it’s the same result. That’s a very dangerous path to go down, in my opinion.”
SIUE may have strongly condemned using profanity on the rock, but there was little clarity in investigating whoever put up the N-word. The school seems to give a message that hate speech is allowed but protesting those beliefs that use language the honorary heads don’t like should be immediately dealt with and heavily condemned. The school promotes all these programs with buzzwords like “diversity” and security for marginalized groups—the SIUE Multicultural Center, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, and so on—but if the school isn’t doing anything about actual hate these marginalized students get on campus, these programs and declarations of inclusivity are only good for expensive promotion.
Transparency is SIUE’s best option. When other discriminatory incidents occur, there should be regular updates on investigations and more insight into what the consequences will be. If the school shows it cares, it would be easier to believe that it does.