Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity hosts community discussion on race and safety at the College
Students and administrators gathered Monday night at Cutter-Shabazz Hall for an “emergency meeting” organized by Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity, a Latino fraternity, to speak about racial issues they have faced both on and off campus. The meeting was sparked by the alleged assault of Geovanni Cuevas ’14 at the Latinx Ivy League Conference at Brown University last Saturday.
The meeting began with Cuevas’ description of what he alleges occurred at Brown on Saturday. After confronting two officers at a party about what he felt was an unwarranted display of force against a drunken partygoer, Cuevas said the officers began to intimidate him and threatened to arrest him for trespassing. He told the officers that he was being hosted in the same building that the party was being held, he said.
Wanting to avoid a confrontation, he left the party. However, he went back into the building from the back entrance to find his hosts. When he could not find them upstairs, he went downstairs to the party to find them, he said.
When the officers saw him again, they slammed him against a wall, tackled him and threatened to pepper spray and arrest him, Cuevas said. The officers claimed he was resisting arrest, he said, though he noted that other witnesses said he was thrown around “like a rag doll.”
He was detained until Brown students came and verified he was a guest, he said.
Cuevas said he sees the incident as reflecting larger concerns about public safety for people of color on the campuses of Ivy League universities.
“We don’t feel safe,” he said at the meeting. “To the administrators in the room, I need you to listen, because we don’t feel safe.”
After Cuevas spoke, the floor opened up to hear from members of the audience. Several speakers — both students and staff — shared their experiences living on the Dartmouth campus and their thoughts on race and racism at the College. Multiple people cried as they discussed their experiences.
Chinedum Nwaigwe ’19 said that she is starting to feel she had been misled in coming to Dartmouth.
“I’m starting to feel as if my being here is to say that we provide an inclusive environment where black students can thrive,” she said. “But I can’t thrive because I’ve cried in this school more about this — racism — than I have because of pressure from exams.”
Another student, who is an undocumented immigrant, said that she felt unsafe on campus, and was afraid to leave her room on her own. She said after coming out as undocumented on her class Facebook page, one of her classmates threatened to have her deported.
Several students expressed dissatisfaction at how they have been portrayed following the Black Lives Matter protest last Thursday, particularly in The Dartmouth Review and on the anonymous social media application Yik Yak.
One student also said she would be filming people of color reading racist posts on Yik Yak as part of a project to show others what their communities deal with on campus.
Several students said they felt that The Dartmouth Review’s coverage was inaccurate and inflammatory. Several students said they wanted The Dartmouth Review shut down.
Vice provost for student affairs Inge-Lise Ameer, who attended the meeting, said she was sorry that the protesters from Thursday night have had to deal with such inaccuracies, and with aggressive responses to the protest.
“There’s a whole conservative world out that’s not being very nice,” she said.
She said the College has released a public statement correcting any inaccurate coverage of the incident and acknowledging that there have been no complaints of physical violence filed with the College.
College President Phil Hanlon also released a statement Monday saying he was “disturbed” by reports of the incident. He met with delegates from the conference, along with Provost Carolyn Dever, Dean of the College Rebecca Biron, Ameer and Assistant Dean and Advisor to Latino Students Rodrigo Ramirez, for a two-hour meeting. He also spoke with Brown University President Christina Paxson, who said the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave.
After several students shared their views, members of the Latinx delegation said that they planned on reintroducing the Freedom Budget to the administration.
The document, which was first proposed more than one year ago, would seek to increase minority enrollment among the student body, increase minority faculty representation and increase discussion of minority issues in the curriculum, among other things. While the faculty did enact some of the reforms it proposed, not enough changes have been made, Cuevas said.
Ameer said that after the meeting, she plans to speak with Safety and Security Director Harry Kinne about increasing security for people of color on campus who feel threatened after Thursday’s protest. She also plans to speak with the IT department about trying to identify Yik Yak posters, though such efforts have not been successful in the past, she said.
In addition, she said she would reread the Freedom Budget, begin holding monthly meetings with student leaders for people of color on campus and work to increase funding for minority groups on campus.
Students interviewed after the meeting expressed satisfaction at having a chance to discuss race-related issues on campus. They were also glad to have members of the administration present, though they remained hesitant that any lasting changes would be made.
Rafael Nunez ’18, one of the delegates to the Latinx conference, said he was glad that people of color on campus have had the chance to share their experiences, though he was disappointed that it took the events at Brown to inspire such a discussion. He said that while he is glad administrators attended the meeting, he will not believe any promises until he sees actual change.
Sherralyn Sneezer ’19 agreed. She will be satisfied when she sees changes, she said. She also hopes administrators can provide more support for Native American students on campus.
The meeting on Monday is not the only student response to the events at Brown last weekend. The delegates to the convention also released a statement Monday supporting Cuevas and demanding changes from the administration at Brown.
They demanded that Brown University Security implement monthly sensitivity and “Alternatives to Violence Project” modules for their staff, acknowledge and apologize for Saturday’s events and create a clearer process for communication between campus security and hosts of future events by Jan. 1, 2016.
They also demanded an apology from Paxson, a reevaluation from Brown administrators about outsourcing security officer jobs, a public forum for Brown students to voice their grievances with administrators present, a reimbursement for the delegates, a promise to fund another meeting in the spring and monthly meetings with minority groups on campus.
Across the Ivy League, they demanded that presidents speak with one another about recent events, introduce proposals to divest from private prisons to their respective Boards of Trustees and release public statements explaining how they will address the issues raised in the delegates’ statement by Nov. 23, 2015.
Delegates to the conference from Harvard University said that they are planning to meet with the Harvard’s dean and other faculty officials to discuss racial issues on campus, Harvard delegate Kelly Navarro said.
Harvard delegates started drafting a letter to the dean after the incident this weekend, Harvard delegate Ruben Reyes said.
Reyes said that the delegates cannot provide any specific demands for administrators at this time, as they still need to meet to discuss details.
Columbia University delegates to the Latinx conference sent a letter to the university’s president, Lee Bollinger, condemning the lack of response from administrators and demanding greater action, the student news blog Bwog reported.
One of the goals of the meeting was to recreate the sort of safe space Brown University provided for the delegates at the conference, Cuevas said.
“I wanted to reproduce the same space we had at Brown with a critical mass of people of color,” he said.
He said that this effort was more successful than any others he could recall recently.