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Ellie Frazier, MSS Intern

Reflection #7: Campus Response to WVBU Hate Speech
Last Thursday evening, President Bravman sent out an email to all students
making us aware of racially charged hate speech broadcasted on the student-run
radio show WVBU. The way he handled it in the email firmly expressed that this
kind of language was intolerable—the students would face repercussions, because
that kind of language is so toxic to our campus community. He said that the speech
was “not who we are.” But as I read it, I couldn’t help but suspect the following to
be true: that the sentiments and biases underlying this act of ignorance are actually
more prevalent on campus than the campus administration recognizes (or is willing
to fully accept), and that these students’ words reflect more widely held prejudices
that have distorted our campus culture over time. This display, coupled with the
YikYak post from last semester, is the most extreme cases of blatant racism I have
witnessed in my four years at Bucknell. But sadly, I cannot say that they are
shocking to me, given the kinds of conversations that have become normative here
and the anecdotal evidence of racist attitudes I have heard from my peers.
From attending three former Posse Plus retreats where students share
candidly about their Bucknell experiences and personal journeys of identity
development, I had heard accounts in the same vain of peer discrimination and
feeling unwelcome on Bucknell’s campus. The faculty who attend the retreat are
generally blown away by students’ stories, accounts that speak volumes about the
pernicious attitudes represented on campus. My fellow students of color have been
repeatedly disappointed and broken down by macro- and micro-aggressions from
peers, and feel significantly more vulnerable in places like Greek registers, or just
walking across campus after dark. This year, the theme of the retreat was Crime &

Punishment. We discussed the dynamic between students of color and Public Safety
—students of color feel particularly watched and suspected, but simultaneously
unprotected by Public Safety officers. As I was reading this email from President
Bravman, I was thinking of those friends, my peers who would argue that this kind
of hate speech does reflect who we have collectively become, and the kinds of
attitudes that we implicitly and explicitly cultivate. I knew that at this point, a
sizeable portion of the student population would be discontent with merely an email
describing vaguely what happened.
The first conversation that involved students happened the day after
President Bravman’s email. I recognized many of the faces that I have seen at Posse
Plus Retreats, along with my fellow T.E.A.M. mentors and scholars, students involved
in religious life, ISS and MSS employees, Res College staff past and present,
students who work for WVBU, members of various diversity groups, Office of Civic
Engagement employees, a few faculty members I have had in the past, and more.
Even though I didn’t know what to expect (the email was very vague, and actually
forthright about the absence of formal programming), I was relieved that at least a
variety of students did care about this and wanted to take immediate action.
Unfortunately, in the absence of programming, I am not sure that the
administration instilled any confidence in the students who were hurt and confused
that serious action steps would follow. But what I think was productive and
worthwhile about this gathering was hearing the voices of students and seeing the
dissonance between what the University claims to be doing for students of color,
and what it has actually done (or failed to do) for them. Bold students stood up and
spoke about their encounters with racist peers and subpar policies and public safety
responses, and the administrators present humbly listened. I think the

administration needed to experience this shock, this incongruence between what
they thought was true about our campus culture, and what students have actually
experienced regularly. Administrators could only really listen, ask clarifying
questions, and extend empathy as multiple students gave accounts of feeling
disrespected, discounted, targeted, threatened, and overall unsafe and unwelcome
at Bucknell. It was upsetting to see that even first year students had encountered
experiences that mirrored the WVBU hate speech.
I’m anticipating follow-up conversations and student action in response to
this collective wake-up call. It appears that many students who do not feel directly
threatened are starting to take on the causes of their peers who feel regularly feel
discarded and vulnerable. There are still a good number of students who do not
recognize their white privilege, and do not yet recognize that their Bucknell
experience is inaccessible to others. I think that is evidenced by the small crowd
that attended this initial conversation, in contrast to the masses who flooded into
frat parties and downtown houses to commemorate what used to be House Party
Weekend. As this conversation emphasized, there are many students who are not
yet invested in the conversation. How do we reach the majority who thus far
remains absent from this dialogue?