Students respond to bias incidents

University President Miaoulis sent an email about two recent bias incidents where BIPOC Resident Assistants (RAs) were allegedly targeted by students with racial slurs and offensive language while performing their rounds on Oct. 13.

The university called the allegations “reprehensible and inexcusable” and denounced the acts of bias. Many students did as well.

“I think if a student does that, they don’t really belong in this community or school,” said sophomore Dayne Thorbahn.

Junior Bianca Pino said she wants more from Miaoulis when handling racial bias incidents.

“I’d like to see more involvement from him especially because I know he’s an immigrant himself so he probably has dealt with some sort of discrimination of his own and he should know and advocate for those who feel discriminated on campus,” said Pino.

Junior Eden Ladouceur said the punishment needs to be different than what it currently is.

“Definitely more than an educational conversation [should happen] because they don’t do enough,” said Ladouceur. “I think there should be some sort of suspension whether it’s a social probation or just an actual suspension. I’m not entirely sure what that looks like at the college level, but there needs to be more than just a slap on the wrist.”

Senior Melissa Calvo Vides expressed a similar thought on punishments for bias incidents being learning opportunities.

“Often the administration treats this as a learning opportunity for the perpetrator, which is not enough. As students of color and sometimes victims of these incidents we are often asked about what we think should happen, personally, I never have an answer for that,” said Calvo Vides.

“You don’t sit in trial and ask the victim of a robbery what should happen to the criminal, there are already precedents for that crime, which is why students of color are demanding that RWU create policy and protocol when dealing with hate crimes and racially charged incidents.”

Senior and former Student Body President Sam Avila shared his thoughts on the incident.

“I feel sad and disappointed, but not surprised because we’ve seen acts like these before whether they’ve been verbal or displays,” said Avila. “This stuff has happened before. It happened last year. It’s happening this year. It’s starting to feel apparent at this point which is very unfortunate.”

Several RWU students said they have witnessed racism on campus before.

“Within my first few weeks of being at Roger Williams I heard more white students use the N-word than I had at my institution I had spent two years at,” said senior Dalton Sousa who previously went to The University of Maine Orono.

“Microaggressions are a near-daily occurrence at Roger Williams,” said Sousa. “I have had a few individuals call me the N-word in social settings. I have been on campus less than a year and most of my time is in COVID.”

Ladouceur also said she has heard the N-word used on campus.

“The most common [example of racism she’s seen at RWU] is just kids saying the N-word and the black face incident last year in one of the Maple units,” said Ladouceur. “Kids saying the N-word just in their room in their own little world talking to their roommates, both of which are white.”

Last week Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Akunvabey said the university is in the process of developing more transparent policies that outline how they approach bias incidents.

Ladouceur said she thought the added transparency would help a lot.

“As someone who’s been an RA for first-year students for two years now, a lot of my kids when they are documented are unsure of what’s going to happen and even as an RA, it depends on individual cases and the discretion of conduct and what they’re going to do,” said Ladouceur.