SUNY student leaders unite against campus hate crimes

Nov 16, 2016

Since the presidential election of Donald Trump, there have been reported cases of racial bigotry found on some SUNY campuses. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke with a SUNY student leader about the issue.    

A flyer that turned up on UB's North campus earlier this week.

“Making it clear that this sort of activity on campus, first is the expectation and not the rule, but it is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated by anyone,” said Marc Cohen, president of the SUNY Student Assembly. 

Marc Cohen, president of the SUNY Student Assembly.
Credit Photo from SUNY Student Assembly

Cohen and other members are speaking out against hate speech that occurred on the SUNY Geneseo campus last Friday. A student reported finding a swastika with the word "Trump" written on it outside a dorm hall. Cohen calls the campus incident “disturbing.”

“The power of the students, both at Geneseo and the State University at New York, transcends any hate and discrimination and that’s indicative of what SUNY is made of,” Cohen remarked. 

Cohen tells WBFO that he and more than 350 student leaders were gathered this past weekend for their fall conference and had a chance to "unanimously" support SUNY's diversity, equity, and inclusion policy and they condemned the display on SUNY Geneseo’s campus.

“And to see students recognizing that we can’t dwell on the past, but have to look forward to the future, have to recognize that we are the leaders of tomorrow and if we want to see a change we need to be that change,” stated Cohen. “And seeing that from 350 of SUNY’s finest was encouraging for me as a leader, but was encouraging for me as someone who is going to raise his kid in the next generation.”   

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called a multi-agency investigation into the hate crime incident. That includes State and SUNY Police agencies. Cohen said he does believe the Geneseo incident was isolated.

SUNY Geneseo campus.
Credit Photo from SUNY Geneseo website

The Geneseo incident occurred hours after Governor Cuomo called for a full investigation into an alleged hate crime in which someone defaced a Wellsville softball field dugout writing ‘Make America White Again’ and a spray-painted with swastika.

Geneseo President Denise Battles issued a message to the college community posted on the school’s webpage emphasizing the importance of diversity.

“We recognize that those who learn, teach, work, and visit our community bring to the College unique perspectives and knowledge that contribute to its richness and vibrancy. Geneseo respects the unique contributions of each individual to the campus community and considers diversity as an essential set of strategies for realizing the College mission of excellence in education,” wrote Battles.

The campus has organized a meeting for Wednesday afternoon to address the recent events.  It will include the College president, cabinet members and other key campus leaders to discussion ‘varied perspectives.’ Leaders said this is to reaffirm the values of the Geneseo campus community of diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

Outside UB's North campus in Amherst, NY.
Credit WBFO News file photo by Eileen Buckley

Monday afternoon a racist flyer was discovered on the University at Buffalo’s North campus in Clemens Hall.  It read "Are you sick of anti-white propaganda in college? You are not alone."

UB President Satish Tripathi issued a campus-wide email where he encouraged civil dialogue and mutual respect for the diversity of people.

“I want to take a moment to say that as a university community, freedom of expression is a strongly held core value, and we uphold the right of all to be able to express their viewpoints in a peaceful and respectful way. Given the tone and rhetoric of this election season, I believe it is more important than ever for all of us to listen closely to one another—especially when we have divergent points of views and experiences—and try to understand each other and learn from one another,” wrote Tripathi.   

UB is calling it an 'isolated incident’ and in a written statement said discriminatory behavior or conduct will not be tolerated.    

“The flyer appears to be circulating on campuses around the country. The appearance of the flyer on the University at Buffalo campus seems to be an isolated incident. Discriminatory behaviors or conduct have no place at UB and will not be tolerated. Diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are strongly held values of our university. We are committed to upholding these values at all times.”

Meanwhile, Cohen and other SUNY student leaders encourage anyone to avail themselves of counseling services that are provided by the campuses. They are also asking every student to move forward with united force and resolve any fight against prejudice.  

“The responsibility of the campus and it’s a responsibility of student leaders to point those students in the direction of help and it shouldn’t be frowned upon by anyone to seek help and talk these things out. It’s a show of strength, not a show of weakness,” said Cohen.