December 1, 2011

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SUNY New Paltz community unites against bigotry

College President Donald Christian: "... dealing with the issues
as real issues

NEW PALTZ – It’s shocking enough to see photos now from the Civil Rights era of water fountains designated separately for whites and blacks.  So when a small sticker was found on a water fountain at SUNY New Paltz’s Humanities building saying “Colored Only” as well as another racist sign in a campus dorm, there was a sense of disbelief it could happen on this diversified campus in 2011.

Many gathered in the Student Union building Wednesday to have a discussion about what happened in early November.

“I hope by the time we’re finished having the discussion and everything, some people will have to change their minds that it’s not really worth it to be racist,” said Youssouf  Kouyo, a New Paltz student and the vice-president of  finance for the campus’ Student Association.

Kouyo said there’s no place for racism – especially New York, which is one of most diversified places in the world.

“Today, if you want to succeed, you have to merge with other peoples, other races. America is not based on one people. In New York, if you’re going to be one-minded, you’re going to have a hard time,” he said.

Wednesday’s discussion, though, said Kouyo, is still instructive in informing people that racism does exist and that it must be dealt with.

“We know there’s racial stuff on campus, but (the signs) aren’t the best way of bringing it up,” he said.  “I’m glad we are having discussions and that they are aware racism is happening.”

College President Donald Christian said an investigation is continuing into the incidents last month and that a person of interest has been identified.

 “I think people are surprised and concerned that incidences like this happened,” said Christian.

 Since then, though, the responses about the campuses handling of the situation have been positive.

“I think overall, at least the message I’ve been getting, about the way the campus has responded at condemning the acts and organizing an event like this. I think there’s been a positive sense that we haven’t tried to sweep things under the rug - but instead dealing with the issues as real issues,” said Christian.

Ed Hanley, a campus employee who attended the discussion, said incidences involving the racist signs should not be tolerated – even though many have thought we moved beyond such problems long ago.

“People shouldn’t have to put up that kind of stuff,” said Hanley. “It’s kind of a reminder that we’re not as far along that path as we think we are.”


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