Two recent events point to offensive behavior on campus
January 25, 2008
Filed under Archives
On the morning of Dec. 3, Amanda Mbuvi, part-time lecturer in religious studies, reported finding a swastika and “death to fags” written in pen on the safe zone sign on the office door of Eric Mortensen, assistant professor of religious studies, in Dana auditorium.President Kent Chabotar called the Bias Incident Group to meet after receiving news of the defacement of Mortensen’s door.
An incident must meet four characteristics in order for the Bias Incident Group to respond: it must be perpetrated by anonymous perpetrators, be widely known by the public, be viewed as threatening to a person or group, and be serious.
Few members of the group, which comprises faculty, staff, and students, knew about it before the meeting.
“It came close to not meeting the criteria,” Chabotar said.
“Fifty percent of me said we shouldn’t do anything at all because the person who did it would get the attention they wanted,” said Mortensen. “However, the other 50 percent finds it so offensive that we need to express that that kind of intolerance is not acceptable.”
The group sent out a statement reaffirming the core values of diversity, equality, and justice, which can be viewed on the Guilford Web Site.
Later in December, housekeeping staff found the third-floor Milner bathroom in a messy state. According to Lili Sharpless, Milner hall director, they had to deal with “cups of urine placed in urinals and feces wiped on the toilet seats as well as the stalls.”
Sharpless woke the male residents on the third floor around 7 a.m.
“I figured since I had been woken up early to deal with their mess they should have to get up early too,” Sharpless said.
She held a meeting to talk to them about the inappropriateness of their actions and to tell them about their shared fine.
Some residents repeated the offense a few days later and attached a note addressed to the housekeeping staff. The essence of the message had a “horrible tone that basically said we’re paying to study, you’re paid to clean, do your job,” Chabotar said.
The Bias Incident Group did not respond to the issue in Milner.
“Its good to have several tools for dealing with issues, you can choose the most appropriate one,” Chabotar said. “We have students to students, student to residential advisors, campus life, and the bias incident group. With all these options, you don’t over or under-react, you’ve got a choice to make.”
Nobody has confessed to either incident. Chabotar said that the focus should be placed on making these issues “teachable moments” rather than finding the perpetrators.
“I’m not interested in knowing someone who did something fundamentally cowardly and pathetically uninventive,” Mortensen said.
“The fact that people could have walked by and see this or heard about it necessitates some sort of public thing,” Mbuvi said. “These people who have seen it won’t know if anyone cares if nothing is done.”
She and other professors have created space in their classes to discuss it.