By Melanie Perez
(TEANECK) – The days following the 2016 presidential election were met with strife on the Metro campus as allegations of snatched hijabs and racial slurs spread around campus.
“In a single day of Trump being president elect: Muslim students were verbally assaulted, a Muslim woman’s hijab was forcibly removed, and a black man was called the n-word,” said Timisha Johnson, an Honors student at FDU Metro.
Another student, Marcus Hill, echoed Johnson’s claims in a letter to FDU President Chris Capuano, which was posted on social media.
“There have been acts of intimidation and racial slurs directed toward minority students, Hill said in a letter. “And far more egregiously, a Muslim student had her hijab snatched of her head and torn.”
Public Safety Director David Miles and Metro Provost Robert Vodde both said that the alleged victims had not come forward to officially report the acts.
President Capuano emailed the university community on Nov. 11, after the allegations emerged, with a message asking for campus unity.
“In times like these, both the nation and our university must rely on our cherished values that have stood the test of time and will prevail once again,” Capuano said. “And need I remind you, where there is unity, there is strength.”
Hill responded to President Capuano’s email, and it was later posted on social media.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that your letter to the FDU community garners no merit,” Hill said. “However, I would like to applaud the university for successfully tiptoeing around an issue that before now, I thought was impossible to ignore.”
Johnson, who was one of the first students to spread the news of the alleged hate crimes incidents on campus, also responded to Capuano’s email.
“Many of the students at FDU are upset because your email is very vague, Johnson wrote. “It leaves out the consequences that will follow any hateful, discriminatory acts that take place on campus.
“I understand not wanting to incite fear into the campus, but that has already happened,” she said. “The students here are terrified of what they may face during a normal day on this campus.”
Provost Vodde responded to Johnson and Hill in a single email, stating that President Capuano shared their emails with him.
“While I am aware of reports of alleged incidents on campus, please know that none have been officially reported to public Safety,” Vodde wrote, “even though that office has taken a number of steps to investigate these reported incidents. Be assured that the university has zero tolerance for any form of hatred, bigotry, prejudice, discrimination, or any form of incivility.”
In response to the replies to the administration and the hate crime allegations, Johnson and McClendon initiated a “Make FDU Great Again” demonstration on Monday, Nov. 14, where students would write positive messages on sticky notes and stick them to the SUB doors, as well as wear safety pins on their clothing as a sign that they are allies to any group in jeopardy of discrimination.
“We will not allow it on this campus,” they wrote in the Facebook invitation that was sent to a large majority of the FDU Metro student population. “We will stand together and show the entire university that we will not tolerate this and we will not allow the administration to sweep it under the rug.”
The demonstration was met with campus acceptance, with many students wearing safety pins and posting sticky notes on the SUB doors’ one of which quoted Martin Luther King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
An anonymous student donated an extra pack of safety pins to the cause, placing them on a bench inside the SUB.
Associate Provost Craig Mourton and members of the Gourmet Dining Staff in the SUB cafeteria participated in the demonstration by wearing safety pins.
In addition to the student-run demonstration, InterVarsity Campus Ministry also hosted a “Post-election Conversation and Reflection” event on Wednesday, Nov. 16, with the intention of creating a safe space for students to share thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the events leading up to and following the results of the election. Public Safety Director David Miles attending the meeting, together with about 20 students.
Assistant Director of Public Safety Mark Fisco, also in attendance, said that at the time of the event, there were still no students who came forward to lodge a hate complaint, as well as no eyewitnesses. He also said that, after combing through hours of video footage, Public Safety staff could not find any evidence of the alleged incidences.
“I would feel totally safe walking on campus,” Fisco said.
Johnson, who also attended the discussion, told Fisco that she knew of an eyewitness to one alleged incident, but that that person was afraid to come forward.
Provost Vodde insisted that if any information is known on the incidents it should be shared so that the university may respond accordingly.
“We have zero tolerance for any kind of racism, hatred or bigotry,” Vodde said. “The strength of this campus has always been its diversity and that is the message that we need to resonate.”