In a letter-writing campaign held at the Black House Monday evening, participants responded to a string of diversity-related issues that have arisen on campus this academic year.

Monday’s initiative was coordinated by Candace Carrington (COL ’12), Ross Anderson (COL ’11), Liani Balasuriya (COL ’11) and Taelor Conley (COL ’12), all students living in the Black House, which is a residential space and forum for black and other minority students to socialize and discuss salient issues. Participants were instructed to bring a laptop in order to write email messages to professors and engage the broader campus community.

The letter-writing campaign came in response to the “possible noose” university officials said was found in a locked utility area below Healy Hall several weeks ago, as well as recent racist graffiti in and adjacent to the Healy sub-basement that has been reported by the university. These incidents sparked a campus community meeting held on Sept. 30 with members from the Department of Public Safety, Student Affairs and Campus Ministry.

Although the “possible noose” was later deemed a climbing rope by administrators, turnout at the initial meeting was low, and student organizers said not enough has been done to mobilize the campus community behind issues of race relations.

“We wanted to use this [instance] to be proactive about events before there’s an actual noose,” Carrington said.

Balasuriya, resident director of the Black House, said she was disappointed by student reaction to the incident.

“We were appreciative of the meeting that the university held, yet it was scary how numb the student response was,” she said.

Balasuriya explained that the letter-writing campaign would be best targeted at professors due to their unique range of influence.

“[Professors] can reach everyone. If we can get them to think about it at a department-wide level, then we can try and push the conversation to new spaces.”

Balasuriya said she did not see a lackluster student response as representative of the entire campus, however. “The problem isn’t specific to the university, but we’re asking for a solution that’s specific to the university and that is to mandate this conversation with the strategy on how do we make this a priority for everyone,” she said. “Hopefully we can all join forces to strengthen our community both inside and outside the classroom, and I think reaching out to professors is one way to do that.”

Balasuriya added that the Black House’s campaign was not meant to criticize any portions of campus. “This is not a letter campaign `against’ anything. It’s a campaign for increased coordination among all those who work on behalf of diversity – and to expand this group – because we cannot accept the response of numbness.”

More than 45 students dropped by to assist with the task during the event’s two-hour span.

The group accomplished their goal for the night, which was to send out an email to everyone in the faculty directory, tallying about 2,400 names. Volunteers gathered around pizza and

discussed shared concerns.

Campus apathy was a central issue addressed in the email to the professors. Although some professors have regularly attended events addressing the bias-related incidents on campus, some letter writers said they were concerned too small a group of professors regularly took part. Many of the participants expressed hope that with the help of this email, more professors would get involved after hearing the personal perspectives of students.

Alex Silberman (COL ’11) has already had favorable responses from some professors that he emailed. “We contacted over 2,000 faculty members, and I’ve personally received two or three responses from professors who want to continue the conversation in their classrooms with their students,” he said.

“Conversation’s a nice step to generate action, but what direction it goes in is what matters the most,” participant Eric Reed (COL ’11) said.

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