Recent hate crime sparks outrage, discussion of change

Most of us like to think our campus is a safe zone where people of different backgrounds are accepted and supported. Although hateful acts are committed across the globe, it can sometimes feel like our Guilford College bubble is immune.

Guilford got a reality check on Nov. 23, however, when sophomore Walid Musarsaa found a note on his door calling him a “damn terrorist.”

Musarsaa, who is from Palestine, has not found this to be the first incident at Guilford.

“There’s been repetitive hate crimes against Arabs on campus for quite some time,” said Musarsaa. “(That) Saturday night, someone knocked on my window and I went to open the door.  I found (the) note on the ground.”

On Nov. 25, Senate held a forum to discuss the incident.

“The forum was a great step toward a healthier community, but if only part of the community is involved in the healing process, we are not fulfilling our end of the bargain,” said senior Ruth deButts. “This is a community issue that needs community action.”

Meanwhile, the administration has also been responding.

“The Bias Response Team at Guilford will meet to discuss this incident,” said Hall Director and Student Success Mentor Brian Daniel. “The team will provide support to those affected.  If the suspect(s) is identified, the case will be brought to the Department of Judicial Affairs.”

The Bias Response Team is a group of staff members that address incidents of hate that are serious and threatening.

“Clearly, it’s serious,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Fetrow. “But was it threatening? There was no serious threat, but it was serious language and certainly offensive speech.

“We will, (regardless of) the Bias Response Team, do some kind of programming in the residence halls about why someone would do this, how do we respond, etc.”

Many are outraged at this blatant display of hate on campus.

“As a Jewish student, I’m pro-Israel, but … no matter what my political orientation is and how I feel about the situation in Israel, I would never support or condone writing such terrible things about someone,” said junior Josh Weil.

Musarsaa hopes this individual incident will foster a larger change.

“I would like to see Guilford invest more in Middle Eastern studies,” said Mursarsaa. “I would also like to see Guilford take a stronger stance on condemning racism against certain groups on campus and … do more in regards to the Arab community.”

Director of Diversity Training and Development Jorge Zeballos agrees.

“I believe we should have educational events … to minimize these incidents,” said Zeballos. “As far as this event, we should try to find out who did it and try to work with them to change their attitude.”

Many agree that the College’s involvement is critical.

“It is important for our administration, faculty and staff to be trained how to handle (and) prevent violent and traumatic events such as this,” said deButts. “Students should feel supported through appropriate actions taken by the administration.

“There needs to be a more noticeable stance against such instances and a stronger search to find the perpetrator. Prevention through education and experience should be the first step to rid the school of this violence.”

Some want more transparency on the handling of these incidents.

“It’s really unclear as to what happens to students when they do violate a policy,” said senior Faris El-Ali. “We don’t really know how these students are taken care of, whether the constitutions and sanctions are upheld or whether or not they’re asked to go through some rehabilitation.”

One heavy question lingers: why would someone do this in the first place?

“Someone might do this because (of) lack of understanding,” said Daniel. “Guilford, as with most institutions of higher education, is a microcosm of today’s society. Sometimes students at Guilford get so used to the accepting atmosphere that they forget that bias still exists.

“Is Guilford more progressive than most institutions of higher education in America? Yes. I think this incident is a reminder that bias and hate still exist even in places we may deem safe and accepting.”