Students, faculty, and staff demand justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion

The+actions+of+February+11th%2C+2022+should+not+be+tolerated%2C+and+the+overwhelming+majority+is+looking+to+the+administration+for+justice+and+answers.

The actions of February 11th, 2022 should not be tolerated, and the overwhelming majority is looking to the administration for justice and answers.

Brittney Atkins, Editor-in-Chief

Over a month after the incident that took place when members of Howard University’s lacrosse team traveled from Washington, D.C. to play the Blue Hose, students are still in the dark about the investigation into the vile, racist remarks uttered by white males.

The incident in question took place on Friday, February 11th, 2022 as Howard University’s lacrosse coach, Karen Healy-Silcott, was escorting her players into Bailey Memorial Stadium. A group of white male students, tailgating by the gate, yelled deplorable slurs at the team members as they were making their way into the stadium.

Howard University is one of the only historically Black colleges with a NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse team, and the Presbyterian College vs. Howard University match was Healy-Silcott’s first game as Head Coach.

After the game, Healy-Silcott contacted the administration at Howard University, and they began to conduct student interviews regarding the events that took place at PC. On Saturday, February 12th, Brian Silcott, Coach Healy-Silcott’s husband and board member of USA Lacrosse, posted a tweet condemning the incident and expressing his concern for Howard’s players.

“My wife had her first game as the Head Coach of @HowardU yesterday at Presbyterian @presbycollege They were greeted by a bunch of boys hurling obscene and threatening insults. This is the life of black female athletes. Wish I was there, thankfully my wife can take care of herself,” Silcott said.

Students, faculty, and staff at PC received an email on Sunday, February 13th from Kerry Pannell, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Will Harris, Chairperson of the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Council, denouncing the vile remarks and informing students that a Student Conduct investigation had already began, and that the administration took action as soon as they were made aware of the situation.

“A student conduct investigation already has begun, and any student found responsible for this reprehensible behavior during the event on Friday will face consequences,” Provost Pannell and Chairman Harris said. “Such behavior does not stand at PC.”

On Monday, February 14th, President Matt vandenBerg sent an email to the PC community echoing the sentiments of Provost Pannell and Chairman Harris, and going into more detail about the actions being taken against the white male students, who have yet to be identified.

The email informed members of the PC community that the investigation was being conducted by an independent counsel to ensure an accurate and fair gathering of evidence would take place, and that areas surrounding sports venues, including Hoseville, would be off-limits until further notice.

“We are committed to an expeditious, thorough, and fair process and to severe consequences for individuals found responsible,” President vandenBerg said.

On Wednesday, February 23rd, another email was sent out by President vandenBerg ensuring students that the investigation was making progress. On Thursday, February 24th, students, faculty, and staff gathered around Neville for a Unity March in support of Coach Karen Healy-Silcott, the Howard University lacrosse players, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Since February 23rd, the only information students have received came this past Monday in an email from President vandenBerg that informed students about the search for the first Rogers-Ingram VP for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, a position that will work towards creating a welcoming environment for all members of the PC community. In his email, President vandenBerg reassured students that the investigation was still underway, and that the administration were still committed to seeing justice served for the Howard incident.

“PC is taking care to ensure that the in-progress investigation produces a thorough accounting of the facts and provides fair treatment for all involved. PC remains committed to ensuring that persons responsible for misconduct are punished appropriately,” President vandenBerg said.

While this investigation has taken longer than students, faculty, and staff may have anticipated, we can find comfort in the fact that an investigation is taking place, and that the current administrations response to the incident shows progress for PC.

On September 13th, 2019, Kappa Alpha Order, a fraternity on campus, was recorded chanting racists slurs as they welcomed new members into their frat. It wasn’t until October of 2019 that the administration was made aware of the incident, and began to take action. On October 30th, 2019, students received an email expressing KA’s apologies and the extent of their punishment.

“[The punishment included] interim suspension, a social probationary period, requirement of a chapter-specific diversity and inclusion action plan to be approved by Campus Life and DIAC, and required workshops over…several months with nationally recognized speakers on diversity and inclusion,” Bob Staton, former president of Presbyterian College, and the Leadership Team said.

After the death of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, Staton sent a campus-wide email denouncing racism, and expressing his desire to make PC “a more perfect union and a more perfect and inclusive campus.”

In June of 2020, the Moving Forward Together Steering Committee was created to address the concerns about race that resulted from the KA incident and in light of national events. In an email from Staton, he outlined the directives of the Steering Committee.

“[The] committee will develop a set of recommendations that set forth, within the context of the Christian faith and PC’s mission, the College’s approach to enhancing our campus climate and culture, addressing our needs and aspirations, and moving forward together to build a more diverse community,” Staton said.

After weeks of meeting, the Steering Committee gave their recommendations to Staton, which included yearly training for all students, faculty, and staff in diversity and inclusion, the hiring of a full-time, trained Director of Diversity & Inclusion, and a physical location for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, among other recommendations.

While changes have been made over the last few years, the incident on February 11th, 2022 demonstrate that PC still has a lot of progress to make on creating a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive community. Although the Steering Committee did produce necessary changes, there have not been severe consequences for students who have participated in racist acts on campus thus far.

The fact that President vandenBerg is using an outside party to investigate the incident, and his personal call for severe punishment, indicates that students can expect for justice to be served.