ESU Releases Initiatives Responding to the Racist Group Chat Incident

Photo Credit/ Natalie Irula

Max Augugliaro

News Editor

In the wake of the racist group chat incident that has left questions over the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, ESU has announced measures they are taking to combat racism, and other forms of discrimination.

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, a statement was issued by Interim President Kenneth Long, outlining the ways in which the university will promote an inclusive campus climate, and educate the ESU community on racism.

“The acts of a few students during a criminal justice course earlier this month reminds us of the work that needs to be done to improve our campus climate,” President Long wrote.

“I will utilize the full authority of my position as Interim President to enact structural and operational changes to foster a more just and welcoming campus community.”

Among the initiatives mentioned include Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and anti-bias training for both faculty, staff, and new students, reviewing institutional data to identify areas where greater diversity is needed, developing and updated policies addressing acts of racism and discrimination, and attracting a diverse pool of applicants for open positions.

The following day, another email was sent to students regarding training for current ESU students.

“ESU remains committed to its goal of becoming a scholarly community that promotes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI),” the statement, reportedly from Dean of Student Life, Dr. Gene Kelly, and Student Government Diversity Committee Chair, Jevon Mitchell, read. 

The statement goes on to say that the training must be completed by April 1, as well as stating that students who complete it will get the opportunity to win prizes.

Nothing in the statement mentioned what punishments are in place, if any, to those who do not complete the training.

In a recent Instagram Live session, both Trinity Holmes and Bianca Armenta, the two ESU students who initially spoke out about the incident, criticized the prize aspect of the initiative.

“’Oh yeah, we’ll give you gift cards, and Ipads, and TVs.’  For What?  People should want to do that because it’s mandated, and they need to do it,” Armenta stated.

“Why do I need a prize to not be racist,” Holmes said in reply, “To not be biased?”

The live session involved addressed ESU’s response, both thus far and ongoing at the time, praising the character of the professor who was on the receiving end of the comments, and discussing ways to help and spread awareness about the incident.

“I know that President Long is only an interim president, so when he’s done and out of office, and whenever the next president is announced, how do we keep these conversations going?”  Holmes brought up during the session.

“If you want to be allies, and you do want to reach out to us, reach out to me and Trinity,” Armenta stated at one point, “We are so open about talking about these things.”

The only other email sent out on behalf of the university, regarding the incident, was a message from Vice President of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence, Dr. Santiago Solis, regarding the Community Restoration Team (CRT) on Feb. 26.

“The purpose of CRT is to develop educational programs depending on the community impact of the incident – not to discipline or sanction students,” Dr. Solis wrote.

It is yet to be seen if ESU will keep speaking on the matter.

If you want to see the full Instagram Live session between Trinity Holmes and Bianca Armenta, the link is right here:

If you want to sign the petition that both women are advocating for, Fix the Six: Enough, the link is right here:

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