By Christian Decker
Over the summer, and indeed, most of the spring, there has been a plurality of issues that the United States has had to deal with, from a largely preventable and massive death count from COVID-19, loss of faith in public institutions, a large and growing movement for racial justice, and a demand for accountability when it comes to police violence. Many institutions across the country are dealing with issues like this. Large corporations are being scrutinized more than ever for their links to racism, and destruction of communities as well as the suppression of worker rights. Schools on the other hand, are grappling with how they have taught U.S. history, how much they left out, and perhaps working anti-racist curriculum into their syllabi now. But, perhaps one of the greatest institutions across the country that has really faced a reckoning have been our universities.
Of course, universities have always been under scrutiny for how they have treated students of color, and what lengthen these universities have gone to establish proper affirmative action programs at their schools. There have been many Supreme Court cases about that very issue. Before civil rights legislation had passed and anti-segregation laws had gone into effect, and indeed the entire character of the U.S. changed, universities often went out of their way to exclude students of color, in fact one could make the argument that they still do. Nowadays, many universities like to brag about their amount of diversity on campus and use it as a marketing tactic to get students to enroll. Many students, however, have been identifying this as part of the problem.
Nowhere so, has university practice when it comes to race been so held up to the light is our school, Fordham University. As a PWI, predominantly white institution, Fordham faces a challenge, and indeed a prerogative to make campus a welcoming environment for its students of color. Especially so when you consider that Fordham is located in the Bronx, the borough with the most concentrated amount of black and brown people in New York City. Fordham has made many concessions and efforts to attract residential students to their campus, but in the meantime, many commuters have felt like they’ve been left out of the conversation. Furthermore, accusations of racism rampant through the campus as well as many issues going unaddressed has brought many students about the realities of the university they attend.
It is in this context that new Instagram pages have sprung up to address issues of racism, among other problems at Fordham. The two most prominent pages have been “blackatfordham” and “letstalkaboutitfordham.” Both pages are open for people to direct message submissions about experiences that they have had on and off campus while they have been at Fordham. Many students have reported they had experienced casual racism on campus, from being made fun of, hearing that people have racial preferences when dating, and in some cases hearing blatant racial slurs. Many submissions have criticized Fordham’s “othering” of the greater Bronx community and criticize how Fordham students run rampant in the Bronx only to leave after 4 years.
Some of these criticisms have even reached the upper echelons of Fordham administration. Among critiques of racism, complaints about how poorly Fordham has handled issues of sexual harassment and assault have been levied at those of the highest levels of the administration. Indeed, there have been posts about both V.P. Gray, and Dean Rogers with some calling for their immediate resignation. Whether any serious investigation or review is been done over these allegations are unclear, but at the time of the posting, they seemed to gain traction with quite a few Fordham students. Even still Fordham students have also made many posts about the Fordham tri-bars, Mugzs, Howl, and Barnyard, and detailing the harassment and harm that they have faced while working there or just going to have a good time.
Beyond the administration and bar culture, another page, fordhamaccountability, had been posting submissions of Fordham students who have been disregarding social distancing laws to try to provide for some sense of accountability for students who endanger others by going to parties, gathering in large groups without social distancing measures, and not wearing masks. Already there have been several posts of large gatherings and parties, and some of these have been linked to cases of the coronavirus.
Although it’s unclear to what extent these measures will have on stimulating change within Fordham, or indeed beyond Fordham, at least something is being done to try.