Editor's Note: What follows is a statement from various campus constituencies about recent events of student racism and homophobia at Kappa Sigma targeting member Arluan Van Hook.
On Tuesday, November 16 The Grio published a harrowing story on Arluan Van Hook, a Black SIUE engineering student, and his recent initiation experiences with Kappa Sigma, a historically White fraternity. The article cited several disturbing details concerning what Mr. Van Hook has recently experienced, namely being called the “n-word,” subjected to homophobic slurs, and needing police escorts while on campus for his own protection and safety. Because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the details of this incident were not initially disclosed to the campus at large. So like many others on this campus, we were made aware of this on-going incident through local and national media. In response to media and institutional communications, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, Safe Zone, Faculty Association, Professional Staff Association, and Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association with full support from the Faculty Senate and the Graduate Council, would like to issue the following statement.
First, we are calling on the university to provide a comprehensive set of on-campus resources for people filing claims to the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT). Specifically, we want the university to provide a clear and succinct overview of the filing process. Also we would like for claimants to know potential outcomes of the process based on historical data. The incident was reported to university officials Sunday, October 17. However, the bias incident report was not filed until nearly a month later. If SIUE is going to be the inclusive anti-racist institution that it is striving to become, then the university must provide clear pathways for students, faculty, and staff to report incidents of bias.
Second, we are also calling on BIRT to provide a liaison to individuals filing bias incident reports. The job of the liaison will be to follow up with the individual filing the report and guide them through the process. Ultimately the liaison will strive to ensure the process provides justice for the individual filing the report.
Third, we are requesting that the university provide at minimum an annual public report of incidents reported to BIRT. The report should include information regarding the number and type of incidents reported as well as the outcomes (where legally permitted) of the incidents. Also we request that the report be included and addressed in the Chancellor’s annual state of the university address.
Fourth, we are challenging the Division of Student Affairs to diversify its staff. Currently, the make-up of the leadership in Student Affairs appears to not fully reflect the racial, gender, or sexual-orientation diversity of the students it represents. In addition to diversifying the staff, we would also like to see the division undergo cultural competency training to root out potential biases in processes and procedures as they work to diversify the division. The combination of diversifying staff and cultural competency training from this campus office will bring SIUE that much closer to truly exuding the value of Inclusion that is so prominently stated in the University’s mission and vision.
In conclusion, we want to commend Mr. Van Hook for stepping forward and reporting the illicit behavior of Kappa Sigma Fraternity members to the national organization and to university administrators at SIUE. We are disappointed to know that our university has been and continues to be an unsafe space for you. It is our hope that we as an institution can live up to our institutional commitments for anti-racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Until that day comes, we will continue to fight.
J.T. Snipes, President, Black Faculty and Staff Association
E. Duff Wrobbel, President, Faculty Senate
Maddie Walters, Student Trustee, Student Government
Barbara McCracken, Chair, Graduate Council
Ed Navarre, President, Faculty Association
Michele Lorenzini, President, Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association
Kimberly McClellan, President, Professional Staff Association
Nick Niemerg, Co-Chair, Safe Zone
Mitchell Haas, Co-Chair, Safe Zone