All too often, it feels as if our administration waits to update the student body about unsavory events that happen on campus. Instead of addressing an event immediately after it happens, it seems that there has to be outrage on campus before the administration admits that something, indeed, did happen.
This time, Knox has addressed a problem nearly a year after it happened. Earlier this week, President Teresa Amott wrote an email to the campus bulletin addressing different instances of vandalism, including a “phrase involving a four-letter epithet was written on the steps of A.B.L.E. house,” last Spring Term. She also referenced other incidents of the same nature on the Beta House and in Seymour Union. This week’s Campus Safety Log reflects this and also includes a report of vandalism on Sellew House as well.
Amott expressed that she was “very sorry that this occurred and that it was not brought to my attention at the time.”
We not see this as an excuse for not making the campus aware of these acts of vandalism. Someone knew about these occurrences, whether they were brought to the attention of Amott or not, the student body should have been made aware. This community routinely receives campus news from sources other than the president of the college. If Knox truly aspires “to uphold our values of community, diversity, inclusivity and social justice,” it cannot wait for information to magically come across the president’s desk. Someone has to be brave enough to address our weaknesses.
What’s wrong with the timing of the email is that it insists that the administration is trying to make the students think that these things don’t regularly happen on our campus. Withholding this information comes off as an attempt to put on the idea that Knox is a perfect place, that it is immune to the insensitivities and ignorance present in the world around us.
In light of the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation the campus should understand that this ideal society is still far from reach. The more perfect Knox society wouldn’t act like these things are new or unheard of; it would point instances of intolerance out immediately and give the well-meaning students of this campus an image to rally around.
The students of this campus are not so naive to believe that no one among us is capable of discrimination and prejudice. We are not so innocent as to be unable to process unfiltered images of the vandalism in question.
If some of our fellow students feel assaulted and uncomfortable, they should not have to bear this burden alone. The general student body should not be afforded the comfort so unjustly taken from their peers.
Let’s acknowledge it and address its fundamentally wrong nature. The graffiti isn’t harmful just because it’s a threat to Knox’s traditions or the spirit of our community – it’s bad because it’s insensitive and wrong. No one should have to feel that their identity devalues their place in the Knox community.
Now that we know about these instances, it is up to the students to actively voice their opposition to these acts of vandalism. Email ABLE house executive members with letters of support. Write an opinion piece for your newspaper supporting cooperation and coexistence. Oppose faceless acts of vandalism. Email administrators asking that they make the student body aware when these things happen so that we can take swift action showing that the majority of us do not advocate for this kind of hateful thought.
We continue to point out that this is not a time for passivity. Both the administration and the student body need to do a better job of holding the Knox community accountable for its actions. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and start making some real changes.