The leader of Canisius College in Buffalo is condemning a disturbing incident that occurred Tuesday night at a campus dorm building. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says it's believed to be in response to the result of the presidential election and spoke with two students.
“I know that race issues exist, but I had never actually witnessed it myself, especially being a white female, I had never witnessed this problem myself,” said Jacquie Sagasta, Canisius senior.
Sagasta was appalled when alerted Tuesday evening to a social media post depicting a photo of a black baby doll with a noose around the neck in an elevator.
Sagasta tells WBFO News that an event was held on campus late Tuesday afternoon by students where College President John Hurley addressed the issue. Students were told the school now knows who is responsible.
"He assured us that there would be very severe consequences and he assured us the issue is not going to be swept under the rug and I really hope that he holds true to that claim,” Sagasta explained. “And they said as of right now, they do not believe there was any negative intent behind the elevator situation because the rope around the doll’s neck was just part of the making of the doll, which I do not find to be an acceptable explanation of this photo and what happened at Canisius.”
“And when I saw it, I was absolutely shocked. It’s horrifying,” declared Lanos.
Gerrell Lanos, a Canisius senior and African American. He is in the minority. A check of college data shows he's among the more than 8-percent of Canisius students who are African American, while a little more than 76-percent are white.
“Seeing the email from President Hurley, I’m glad that he actually noticed the situation and responded to it as promptly as he did, however, I think with him and some of the other faculty members and some of the public safety officers are failing to recognize the situation as it is and for me it is a little discouraging that they aren’t labeling this as a ‘hate crime’ because in my view, I do see it as a hate crime,” Lanos said.
Students also say the doll was dangled out of dorm room windows. The students say they were told that the incident appeared to be between roommates, but Sagasta said she thinks the college is tip toeing around a racial issue.
“By hanging a black baby doll in your window, you are not keeping anything between your roommate,” Sagasta responded.
College President John Hurley issued a written statement to the campus community calling it 'despicable’. He noted it goes against what Canisius stands for and the behavior would not be tolerated. Hurley also pointed out that the incident is 'extremely troubling’ as the campus strives for diversity. He says this indicates the campus has work to do.
The following is Hurley's full statement:
November 9, 2016
Dear Canisius College community:
Last night, someone hung a black doll in an elevator in Frisch Hall. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Terri Mangione and Public Safety Director Wil Johnson were notified immediately and are investigating this incident. We will hold responsible whoever perpetuated this despicable act that goes against everything for which Canisius College stands. I cannot condemn this act strongly enough. This cannot and will not be tolerated on the Canisius campus.
We have been working this year on improving our campus culture and making it one in which all of our students of color feel equal, valued and respected and where we truly embrace and celebrate diversity as a strength. I am totally committed to working with our students, faculty and staff to foster an environment at Canisius that is respectful, welcoming and safe. This incident is extremely troubling on several levels and it indicates we have work to do. I should stress, however, that we should also keep perspective and not paint the entire campus community with a broad brush over the stupid act of one or a few individuals.
I will keep the campus informed as our investigation progresses.