Dr. Dan Cleary, associate professor of English at Lorain County Community College, was appalled by the sight of a racial slur, the n-word, written in two men’s bathrooms in the Stocker Center and the University Partnership. Cleary reported the graffiti to campus security on Dec. 4. The officers who investigated the report observed ‘a statement, racist in nature’ carved into the first floor men’s bathroom stall in the Stocker Center. The second was written on the handicap stall of the men’s bathroom on the second floor of the University Partnership building. Officers then contacted Physical Plant Operations Manager, Dale Lucas to remove the graffiti. “We went out and had to get a special heavy body paint that would cover it up and mask it,” explained Lucas.
Acts of racism at LCCC are very rare, according to Ken Collins, director of Campus Security. There were only two race-based hate crimes reported in 2012, with none in 2013 or 2014. “We have a very nice campus and most folks respect the campus and we don’t have a lot of problems with graffiti or things getting damaged which is good unlike other college campuses. It says a lot about the culture of the campus I think,” said Collins.
LCCC student Alyssa Lekas noticed that others around her used the word ‘n…as’ and suggested, “It’s not necessarily directed towards black people.” Rather, she explained, “I just feel like ‘n…as’ said in Elyria is a term kids use loosely because they think it’s cool, like they hear it in a song by rappers. I don’t think it’s directed towards black people anymore unless you say n…er.”
“You know, actually, I’m disappointed that somebody wrote that,” said Sinegugu Gasa, an international student from South Africa studying at LCCC. “I’m not going to say I’m surprised because of the confederate flags I’ve seen. I saw one on a faculty car and I was like ‘oh jeeze,’” said Gasa.
“In terms of LCCC, I have definitely experienced microaggression,” Gasa said. Gasa, who changes her hairstyle frequently, feels ignorance is a key facet. “People are not knowledgeable about me and my hair, so they ask very stupid questions that reflect that. Someone asked, ‘is it real? Can I touch it?”’
Other times racist statements took on a different appearance, for example: on the shirt of her classmate. “She would wear this shirt with a confederate flag at the back that says ‘if this offends you, you’ve made my day’,” described Gasa. “I’ve never said anything to anyone it’s just I saw signs and symbols that people like to carry and I’m uncomfortable with that.”
Despite what she has experienced, Gasa continues to enjoy her time at LCCC and believes that these incidents were not intentional acts of racism, rather they stemmed from a lack of knowledge.
News of hate crimes against African Americans on college campuses has spread like wildfire and LCCC is no exception. In 2015 LCCC was only one of several college campuses whose bathrooms were marred by racist graffiti. Other colleges faced with identical issues were the University of Iowa, St. Louis Community College, and Connecticut College.
Like many college campus the students and faculty of LCCC are seeking to address racism by discussing it. One way to talk about racism is to establish a forum at LCCC to talk about it.
“I feel like starting the conversation by getting the professors and the dean in charge on the same path. I feel like it’s something that’s not really addressed so let’s talk about it,” said Gasa.
Sharon Van Houte, an associate professor at LCCC, also believes that addressing racism at LCCC is the right course of action. As a teacher Van Houte recognizes that her students juggle multiple responsibilities outside of the classroom, making it difficult for them to become involved in extracurricular activities like forums. As an alternative, Van Houte suggested a time efficient approach, “I think you would need to target certain classes and convince the instructors to start dialogs and bring students as parts of their class work.”
However, not everyone at LCCC is confident that change can occur. “It’s just people are childish, especially in college. It makes you laugh, but you’ll never be able to change it,” said Rocco Nunnari, a student at LCCC.
According to Cleary, racism exists in America and needs to be addressed on LCCC’s college campus. Regardless of the circumstances, LCCC professors and administration should actively take part in searching for a resolution, whatever that may be. “Part of our job is to challenge students’ pre-existing beliefs, especially when those beliefs are morally repugnant like racist sentiments,” Cleary said.