October 3, 2014
For white, privileged Hamilton College students—the majority of the student population—it may be hard to believe that some students feel isolated or even targeted because of their gender, their sexual orientation, their race, or a combination of those categories. On the surface, Hamilton seems like a place where nothing could go wrong, where students are treated equally, everyone is open-minded and no one holds prejudices. Underneath the surface, however, this is not always the case. In the last several years, many incidents have rocked the Hamilton campus. Whether they may be racially charged posters, insults hurled at students, or sexual assaults, Hamilton has been forced to confront these issues head on.
In the last few years, there have been a number of shocking incidents that have occurred on Hamilton’s campus. This school year has been particularly productive when it comes to responding to these happenings. In the past week alone, two men driving in a car yelled a racial slur at a student and in a separate incident four men actually threw trash at a student and yelled “gay Arab” before driving away. Some other reported incidents over the years include: a poster demeaning Hispanic immigrants advertising a “Mexican Party,” the n-word and “white power” scrawled on bathroom stalls, homophobic taunts, various sexual assault incidents, the vandalism of a clothesline project designed to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence, students demeaning the Muslim Prayer Room by having sex in it and a seemingly anti-Semitic attack that deliberately cut a prayer from the wall of the Sukkah, a hut used for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Needless to say, all of these are shocking and hard to believe. While it is not clear that Hamilton students committed all of these acts, what is clear is that we must create a campus culture where these incidents are not acceptable in any sense of the word.
Recently, Hamilton students and faculty members have attempted to begin to create a kind of environment on campus that makes it unequivocal that we will no longer tolerate such incidents. On Saturday, a large number of students and faculty members gave up much of their day in order to try to understand better the racial outrage in Ferguson, MO, throughout the country and on Hamilton’s campus. Those that gathered in the Barn shared their own stories and demanded to know how we can stop such episodes. While such open and honest discussions are not easy, it is a good start towards ultimately achieving a campus where minority students do not feel marginalized or threatened and are not subject to these all too frequent racial bias incidents.
In addition to discussions about race on campus, many students made it abundantly clear that sexual assault should not be tolerated at Hamilton College. Those that participated in the Womyn’s Center’s sexual assault march and protest on Tuesday carried pillows, stuffed animals and even mattresses in order to symbolize their solidarity with victims of sexual assault. Undoubtedly, the protest forced people to engage in conversations with their friends about the importance of awareness about sexual assault. Those that did not participate saw how many of their friends and classmates stand in support of victims of sexual assault victims and it forced them to recognize just how many people on campus are serious about this issue.
Let The Spectator be clear: Hamilton has a long way to go. There are many things that we need to do to protect minority students and make them feel not only welcome at Hamilton College, but also safe. We also need to combat sexual assault aggressively, which we believe the school is at least trying to do with the implementation of the new sexual assault policy. In the mean time, we as students need to continue to take matters into our own hands because there is no better way than organizing and protesting to send a message to the administration that things need to change.