Last week, a screenshot from a private class GroupMe chat—apparently between ESU students—was leaked on social media, exposing a chat log of some students making racist remarks about a woman professor of color during a class.
“The behavior that was exhibited on February 4 by students attending ESU was a blatant misalignment from the goals of their school,” stated ESU student Trinity Holmes on her Instagram, echoing a point on ESU’s mission statement at the start of her caption.
“This group chat was meant for helping each other and the fact that I don’t feel comfortable around ppl who are my ‘classmates’ is upsetting.”
Holmes said she was one of a couple of students who brought this matter to the university’s attention and released the chats when they heard nothing back from the university.
Reporters and editors from the Stroud Courier have examined the chat as reproduced on social media and sought to verify via email who participated and to ask them to explain themselves. Those emails have not been returned.
One part of the chat compares the professor to the Curious George cartoon figure. The racist trope of comparing Black people to monkeys has a long, ugly history in America.
Fellow ESU student and classmate of Holmes, Bianca Armenta, is also speaking out about the university’s handling of the situation.
“As a woman of color, I stand with all my fellow peers, we deserve to study in an environment where we are embraced, we deserve to be taught by teachers who look like us, who we can identify with,” stated Armenta.
“We do not deserve to be taught by professors who are racist, or have classes with students who call our black professor a monkey or even make racist comments towards us. We do not deserve to be ignored by an institution that has BLM in their signature at the end of emails. ESU needs to wake up and treat this issue with the swiftness it deserves!”
ESU Black Student Union (BSU) also released a statement on Instagram on Feb. 19:
“We are told to support each other by faculty and administration, yet our small community is left to work together to combat the inequality and racism that is comfortably embedded in our university and its policies on our own, using our own resources and our own time,” the statement from BSU reads.
“Why is it that the university preaches and emphasizes being ‘Champions of Social Justice’ and yet they do not practice those same ‘Ways of a warrior?’”
Many student organizations have since released statements of solidarity with students, faculty and staff of color.
The incident also caught the attention of NAACP Monroe County Branch President, Christa Caceres.
“The video and transcript were made available to us and, to put it mildly, we are outraged,” wrote Caceres in a statement. “I just makes no sense to us that in 2021, people are still subject to this level of disrespect and attempts at dehumanization, but we say, ‘Enough is enough’. Change must come.”
“Accountability is required in this case and we want to see it. We stand with the students of ESU who bravely stand up and openly reject racism and racial bullying and will work tirelessly to bring an end to senseless and indefensible targeting of Black people and other people of color in Monroe County,” the statement reads.
In an email sent to students on Friday, Interim President Kenneth Long expressed the administration’s outrage about the incident and stressing that it does not represent the values or the principles of ESU.
“We understand that you are outraged. We are outraged too,” wrote President Long, “We are disappointed these actions occurred on our campus.”
“I applaud those who brought this incident to our attention and hope that we all become stronger, better stewards of our campus community moving forward,” wrote President Long.
Staff Writer Shavonne McLamb contributed to this story.
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