Daemen student suspended for wearing KKK-style outfit

Nov 22, 2016

There has been another racist incident on a local college campus. Two Daemen College students were placed on suspension after a male student wore a costume that resembled a KKK outfit inside Canavan Hall Monday night. A second student, who helped dress him, was also suspended. 

Daemen College in Amherst, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

A letter was issued to the campus community from College President Gary Olson. Olson called the incident "unacceptable." He noted the outfit symbolizes "hatred and violence" and should not be considered a joke. 

Olson said it against the College's Student Code of Conduct.

Daemen College President Gary Olson.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

"I find it unacceptable that at this institution, and in this day and age, people would knowingly wear an outfit that symbolizes hatred and violence and to assume that this is an acceptable 'joke.' To be clear, it is not a joke, and it is against the policies outlined in the Daemen College Student Code of Conduct," stated Olson. 

Taqiyah Gibbons, president of Daemen's Black Student Union, said she wasn't shocked by the incident.

"These issues have been going on, they just haven't been reported in the manner that this incident has been reported," Gibbons said.

The student who wore the costume called it a "joke." Gibbons says it wasn't funny.

"To them, it's a joke because they're not the ones who have that fear," Gibbons said. "To them, it's a joke because they aren't the ones whose families have had to go through this constant terror in the past."

The incident sparked social media discussion on Facebook. Some called the incident “un-American”   

An investigation by the college is underway to determine further discipline. Gibbons thinks the appropriate action was taken and hopes it prevents students from mistakes like this in the future.

"Even though you can't control the actions of the students, letting the students know what actions won't be tolerated is controlling the actions," Gibbons said. "Letting them know that it won't be tolerated and letting them know that you will face certain consequences from participating in these acts in a sense is controlling the students' actions because now they have to realize, 'Ok, I know I can do this, but do I really want to risk my education just to have a good laugh?'"

The College's Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs has reached out to the campus community to offer support.

Other acts, considered by some as campus hate crimes, have been reported. The night of the Presidential election, a black baby doll with a noose was found on a Canisius College campus elevator. Students involved were suspended. Last week, a racist flyer was discovered on the University at Buffalo's North campus. It read, "Are you sick of anti-white propaganda in college? You are not alone." The week before, a student on the SUNY Geneseo campus reported finding a swastika with the word "Trump" written on it outside a dorm hall. 

The following is the full text of the letter issued by Daemen President Olson:

November 22, 2016
 
Daemen College  Students, Staff, and Faculty

Dear Colleague,
 
I wanted to follow-up on the letter sent out by Vice President Nayor earlier this morning. The College, under Dr. Nayor’s leadership, has been investigating and addressing this situation throughout the day.  What we know is that yesterday evening, Monday, November 21, a group of six Daemen College students were studying in Canavan Hall when one or more decided to take another student’s Greek goddess costume and put it on. At some point, the one student trying on this costume was manufactured a white hood of sorts, creating an outfit that resembled that of a KKK member. That student then decided to walk down the hall and knock on another student’s door.  

I find it unacceptable that at this institution, and in this day and age, people would knowingly wear an outfit that symbolizes hatred and violence and to assume that this is an acceptable “joke.” To be clear, it is not a joke, and it is against the policies outlined in the Daemen College Student Code of Conduct.  

As of now, the student wearing the costume and the student who helped dress him have been placed on interim suspension from the college. The Student Affairs team is fully investigating this incident and will determine ultimate sanctions in accordance with the Student Handbook. I applaud their swift action. While we cannot always control the actions of our students, we can control how we respond. This is the type of swift and immediate response I expect when an incident like this occurs.  

In addition, our Director of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs has reached out to members of the campus community and is available for support, as are other support services on this campus.   We must continue to educate our community that this institution is not a place that will tolerate hatred, violence, or the threat thereof. 

We must also continue to have the courage to stand up to our peers when we see or hear something that is not right, offensive, and/or inappropriate.  
 
Cordially,
 
Gary A. Olson
President