Harrisburg, Pa. − October 21, 2020 − Today in a hearing of the Senate Education Committee, Senator Art Haywood shared stories he had learned from Black students at the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities and blasted PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein about his mishandling of these issues.
Chancellor Greenstein presented to a joint hearing of the Senate Education and Appropriations Committee on his proposal to redesign the State System – but Senator Haywood and others were deeply concerned about the harassment of students of color in recent years. While the System has hired a new Vice Chancellor for diversity, Senator Haywood does not believe it goes far enough.
“It appeared to me that this was a typical play I have seen over and over where a black person is given a diversity assignment to fix the white problem of race discrimination,” Senator Haywood said to Chancellor Greenstein. “Institutional racism creates an unsafe climate for African American students and causes a lot of stress which impacts their overall performance. Lip service and simply adding relevant courses are not part of the solution, unless they are requirements to graduate.”
Senator Haywood has been talking to many students at PASSHE schools about their experiences and how discrimination is addressed on their campuses; he’s heard:
- A student shared that African American student at Bloomsburg University say they don’t go past the water fountain in town, as the fountain marks the beginning of a neighborhood known for racial discrimination. The student said he does not feel safe. The student had been cursed at while walking. He also complained that cultural clubs are given offices in the basement of buildings.
- Another Black student at Bloomsburg said he was heavily recruited to attend the university but once he got there he found no supports and felt like he was an outcast. He heard of a slave auction reenactment on campus that was not condemned. He has had minimal access to Black academic counselors or professors or mental health support and no Black studies course of study.
- A third student from Bloomsburg says she has been stereotyped as a poor inner city kid with no father. She is a suburban kid with a father. Either way she is not inferior. She reports having been called the ‘n-word.’
- East Stroudsburg students of color also report having been heavily recruited, but the university made no efforts to retain them. They’ve had racist roommates with no consequences and seen hate groups grow on campus.
- A Shippensburg student, also heavily recruited to attend, has been told to ‘go home, [n-word]’, chased on campus, and called other racial epithets with no repercussions for the other students who have committed these acts. They also report seeing many Confederate flags on cars on campuses.
- An IUP student described Confederate flags on campus, few if any white students, faculty or staff participating in diversity training and no consequences for harassment from a racist Zoom bomb incident.
“There is a pattern in our State System: students of color are recruited to attend these schools when they are in high school, but once they arrive – the Administration does little to support them,” said Senator Haywood. “They are faced with racist treatment by their classmates and roommates, disregarded by professors and administrators, and PASHEE does nothing to protect them.”
“Imagine seeing the re-enactment of a Holocaust gas chamber on campus. The Chancellor and Administration would condemn it immediately and there would be immediate consequences for the students behind it,” said Senator Haywood. “The racist mistreatment of our Black students must be taken just as seriously.”
“Our State System is supposed to be an accessible option for every Pennsylvanian student who wants to further their education, and while the Administration seems interested in increasing minority enrollment, I am angry by how students of color are harassed and abandoned when they arrive on campus,” Senator Haywood continued. “We cannot finance race discrimination on campus need to see immediate steps from the Chancellor to end the harassment and tolerance of racism.”