On Thursday, Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young took a stand along with fellow employees at the community college.
This fall, students at SC became targets of racial discrimination in the form of slurs written on dorm whiteboards. The college’s response is admirable in that its leadership didn’t just talk the talk when it came to rectifying the situation. They’ve worked with various law enforcement agencies to attempt to find the perpetrators. They have not named anyone in connection with the incidents, but they also haven’t stopped looking.
In addition, leaders at the school have developed plans for adding security measures, increasing cultural awareness on campus and providing additional training for staff and students alike. They also hope to empower students to take a stand against such discrimination when they see it happen.
The goals and plans established by the college don’t mean that individuals have to agree on everything. In fact, they don’t even mean that everyone has to like everyone else. That isn’t realistic.
Every student deserves to feel safe, though, and I cannot help but feel disappointed that a stand proved necessary. The idea of individuals aiming threatening and racially insensitive language at fellow students makes my stomach turn. The incident, as Young pointed out at a Thursday press conference, isn’t isolated.
Other schools across the country have seen similar incidences of intolerance. Young pointed out several examples Thursday, including the flyers hung at the University of Wyoming recently that denied the Holocaust happened.
Even in Sheridan, the college doesn’t stand alone in battling discrimination. Members of the LGBTQ community expressed their experiences with discrimination as the city considered an anti-discrimination resolution. City officials opted to pass a resolution recognizing “all” individuals, learning the lesson in the process that no matter what action they took, they weren’t likely to please all of their constituents.
This week, as I stood at the corner of Main Street and Grinnell Plaza, I looked at a sign taped to the crosswalk post. It read, “Defend America. No more tolerance. No more diversity.”
The sign included the name and website of a group called Vanguard America, which has been described by publications like The Washington Post and organizations like the Anti-Defamation League as a white supremacist group.
I don’t know who hung the signs. I don’t care. I do care that the signs represent one more example of Sheridan being portrayed as unwelcoming. Nearly all of the people I have met in my nearly 10 years in Sheridan cringe at such language. After all, visitors tell us all the time how welcoming this community is. How do we prove them right and retain that welcoming reputation?
Take a stand.