by Layla Abbas
photography by Ariel Torres
The University of La Verne has entered an age of fear, uncertainty and confusion. Students, staff and faculty woke up to news of an apparent hate crime Monday morning March 1, 2019. Classes were immediately canceled after a report of arson and theft to a student’s car in Parking Lot H2 beside the Oaks dormitory. Anger, discomfort and sadness swept over the entire La Verne community.
This incident came after a report the day prior of racist threats made against two students via an anonymous Instagram account. The message included a photo of students protesting racism on campus, and indicated that the sender knew students’ routines, including where they live and where they park their cars. The University, having never dealt with a situation to this extent before, was faced with a foreign and unfortunate task to address. The University hosted a day of reflection and workshops for faculty, staff and students and pledged to continue reinforcing the core values of the University in every aspect on campus.
On the eve of the Spring 2019 commencement, a student reported being attacked in the staircase of the Vista dormitory, an incident deemed to be racially motivated. This student, who had previously reported threats made against her threatening to kill and rape her, is under investigation. The University is tasked to address another racially motivated incident that has riveted the campus community.
Here is a glimpse of those reactions from members of our University community in April:
Issac Carter, assistant professor of education
“It is not shocking, since the 2016 election there has been roughly estimated a 35 to 40 percent increase in hate crimes on college campuses. There is a power base that wants to keep those conversations to a minimum, so for me the hate crime incidents which are ongoing, they have not stopped on this campus, and there have been recent ones that people do not actually know about, and it just reminds me that we are not post anything. We are not post racial, we are not post cultural, we do not live in a colorblind society; we are not extra liberal. We are still a country that is founded by hate that has been sustained by hate, and the economical, political, social gaps–and in education–are material manifestation of our inability to have direct and true honest conversation about how we as a society do not support the idea of a full democracy. Democracy is a myth or ideal that we have not achieved in any real significant way. I am disappointed this institution had to have this experience, but also there was a poignant response to the hate crimes and minimization of their impact. I do not think our community and this institution are actually still having honest discussions about diversity in a real way because people are unwilling to take the challenge to admit that they are part of the problem. If you say you are liberal or an activist or you and your buddies decide you are woke, that does not stop the systematic inequality from perpetuating if you are not actively working to deconstruct it. If you are saying nothing and just going on with the flow and writing letters of support and statements of solidarity that do nothing to change the materialize of the people who have been targeted and continue to be targeted by hate crimes, then that is sad, disappointing and embarrassing.”
Marcus Blevins, sophomore business administration
“I am not scared since I have grown up with hate crimes around me all the time. I was never affected by one, but of course it will always be an issue. You can keep bringing awareness to the issue, but it takes time to change people and of course it will still be here for awhile. I was in shock more of how violent the situation got; not really that there was a hate crime, but that it happened here.”
Jonathan Reed, provost of the University of La Verne
“The last several months have given us all pause to reflect on where we are in regards to the climate on campus, where we are with issues of equity and diversity. I think there is an opportunity for the University to turn this into an opportunity rather than just a challenge. It will be important for the entire University to continue conversations and move forward.”
Claudio Munoz, professor of accounting
“I have been a Latino professor here for over 25 years, and this experience has made me think a little more sensitive toward other people of all ethnicities, religions and orientations. It has been a big cause of concern for me because I was not aware of what our ugly truths are that are happening on our campus–whether they are hate crimes, violence, racism, things of this nature. I thought we had done a good job overall here at the University, but I do not know if we have really done a good job of living it out per say. The information we are receiving is limited. I am not sure what is going on other than what I have learned already. I do not know a lot about the frustrations and the anger students have, and I would like to be able to help in any way I can.”
Estelle Smith, sophomore chemistry major
“It did not really affect me. I noticed a lot of changes around campus, like I have seen a lot more security guards, and it feels more tense in classrooms. If the topic gets brought up, people want to talk about it. It is good to talk about it, but I have not been in the situation where it has fully affected me yet.”
JuYong Oh, sophomore business administration major
“Being an international student, I was a little concerned at first, but after reading the article and having a better understanding as to how things went down between the students, I thought it was pretty immature and unfortunate on the campus’ behalf. I believe it is one of those one time events where it sucks that it happened, but it is time to move on, and people will learn from it. Obviously, the school is responding to it very well, and I hope things like this do not happen again.”