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Laura Chang

 

By LAURA CHANG
News Co-Editor
Published: April 23, 2012

Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) raised over $19,000 for Relay For Life, an event that fundraises money for the American Cancer Society.  Over 20 registered teams set up tables on the outdoor Plaza of Lowenstein selling goods ranging from cupcakes, empanadas and drinks to daisies, a “pie in a face,” and raffles. The April 21 event included team games such as water balloon tossing and tug-of-war. In the evening, a luminaria ceremony was held where participants were able to light a glow stick in honor of a loved one they lost to cancer.

By LAURA CHANG
News Co-Editor
Published: March 28, 2012

The “Vagina Monologues” at Fordham College at Lincoln (FCLC), directed by Ashley Almon, FCLC ’14, was performed in the 12th floor lounge of the Leon Lowenstein building on March 24 and the South Lounge on March 25. Although the play by Eve Ensler has been banned by Student Affairs since 2003, this was the first year that Counseling and Psychological Services, a department under Student Affairs, was allowed to take part in the debrief session held after the show in the South Lounge.

According to Rebecca Gehman, FCLC ’12 and president of Isis, Fordham’s feminist club, the club was unable to label the “Vagina Monologues” as an Isis event because of its ban from Student Affairs. Even though this event was sponsored by Women’s Studies and African American Studies, Gehman said that whenever “Vagina Monologues” was performed, flyers excluded Isis from the brand.

Student Affairs oversees several departments including Counseling Services, Residential Life and the Office of Student Leadership and Community Development (OSLCD); therefore staff members from those offices were not permitted to attend the play. Counseling Services had to move to a separate space in the South Lounge after the play was over for further discussion.

Gehman said that the reason Student Affairs does not approve of the “Vagina Monologues” is due to a situation in one monologue whose message they do not want to promote.

“There is a young female that has consensual sex with an older female, but because of the age difference, it is legally rape,” Gehman said. “Even though this is a play, it’s from a real women’s story and it is an artistic expression.”

Keith Eldredge, dean of students, said, “The ‘Vagina Monologues’ is not supported by the administrative units of the university, including the departments in the division of Student Affairs.” However, students affiliated with the production, along with United Student Government representatives, requested something new this year. “They asked for a separate program, to be held after the performance, at which staff from Counseling and Psychological Services would facilitate a conversation about sexual violence and the related issues raised by the performance,” he said.

Eldredge said that Isis was able to offer the new debrief program after working out the logistics with Jeffrey Ng, director of Counseling and Psychological Services, and Eldredge himself. “As administrators, we are very concerned about sexual violence and pleased that we were able to collaborate on this initiative,” Eldredge said.

The debriefing sessions after the “Vagina Monologues” were created as safe space for anyone who wanted to talk about their reaction to the play, Arielle Lhotan, FCLC ’12 and vice president of Isis, said.

“What’s amazing about the debriefings is that everyone is incredibly supportive and you can feel the genuine love between students for one another. We need safe spaces for students and support for one another to really build community,” Lhotan said.

In addition, Gehman said the “Vagina Monologues” raised $2,000 from the tickets sold in two nights, including promotions and donations. 90 percent of the profits went to Hope’s Door, a local women’s shelter that provides legal services for women. The other 10 percent went to VDAY Global Safe Houses to build safe houses that help girls and help protect women from risk of violence. Tickets were sold to students for $8 and $10 for non-students.

Although this was the first time the “Vagina Monologues” performed in the 12th floor lounge, the cast was unable to practice in the space. Gehman said there was a technical issue with how the space works. “The 12th Floor Lounge is run by the Vice President’s office and you’re only allowed to have events there if you have a certain amount of audience. So even if no one is using the room, if you don’t have a certain amount of audience members and a faculty member present, then you’re not allowed to use that room,” she said.

Gehman said that searching for space was the most frustrating part. Since this event is not sponsored by Student Affairs, the group cannot directly use OrgSync to reserve a room and instead must go through a “complicated communication train” with the Women’s Studies secretary who helps them call Conference Services to find a room. “It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, but without the support of Student Affairs or someone full-time backing us up, it makes the process so difficult,” she said.

“At the end of the day, it’s not like we’re trying this hard to put on a play. We’re trying this hard to put on a play because it speaks to survivors of sexual violence,” Gehman said.

For students who attended the debrief after the show, some described it as helpful and emotional.

Alyssa DiScipio, FCLC ’14, said, “Considering the kind of emotions that the “Vagina Monologues” could bring out, I think having a debrief afterwards was a great way to talk about the message of the show and let everyone’s voice be heard.” DiScipio also said that considering the lack of institutional support of the play, “I think it was very positive to have Counseling Services there because it lets people know that there is support within our community.”

Tiia Fischer, FCLC ’14, said, “Shows like the “Vagina Monologues” are so great because they make people aware of these issues and force us to talk about them.” Fischer said that it was a positive experience having Counseling Services there because they facilitated the discussion and served as a “support system for those who may have needed it.”

Gehman said that she has been very appreciative of Eldredge and Dorothy Wenzel, director of OSLCD. “It’s not their obligation to sit down with me and give me tips on how to make this whole process easier and it is not their say whether the play goes on or not…but, [Eldredge and Wenzel] have been as helpful as they can be in their position.”

On Feb. 27, a resident of McMahon Hall found homophobic graffiti written on stairway B between floors 11 and 12. (Harry Huggins/The Observer)

By LAURA CHANG and HARRY HUGGINS
News Co-Editors
Published: March 2, 2012

UPDATE: Another racial slur has been found in a Rose Hill dorm, this time in a bathroom in Goupil Hall. According to a mass-email sent by Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Jeffrey Gray, Fordham Security is conducting another investigation, and there will be floor meetings in the residence hall later tonight held by Office of Residential Life. Gray also announced student-planned vigils taking place March 8 at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center. Gray’s letter continued to once again condemn the recent events. “As a Jesuit university we rightly hold ourselves to elevated standards of speech and behavior,” Gray said. “The individual or individuals who have committed these acts fall woefully short of those standards.”

Following the discovery of a homophobic slur written on a McMahon Hall stairwell early Feb. 27, Fordham held a town hall discussion where students debated a proposed mandatory diversity program for future students. The administration has also condemned such acts inexcusable, promising punitive acts toward any student found linked to the crime.

According to Jenifer Campbell, director of Residential Life, the words “gay” and “loser” were written in the B stairwell on the 11th floor of McMahon Hall.. She said that after a student discovered the offensive language, a staff member was contacted which alerted maintenance, facilities and security. There are no cameras in that stairwell.

Campbell described the immediate actions of the security staff. “Security took a photograph of what was written: the word ‘gay’ on the standpipe, and on the signage it said ‘loser’ and ‘gay’ in writing akin to the sign there,” Campbell said. “So they were able to wipe it off, and then procedurally, we’re doing an investigation and follow-up.”

This is the second offensive slur to happen at Fordham in a month. On Feb. 7, a Residential Assistant (RA) found a racial epithet written on her door in the Rose Hill campus’ Walsh Hall. As a result, dean of students at FCLC Keith Eldredge gathered the FCLC community during a town hall meeting on Feb. 22. Since the homophobic slur hit this campus, Eldredge said that the behavior on both campuses is unacceptable and that it was important to hold this second town hall meeting. “It’s not appropriate; it’s not part of what it means to be a Fordham community member,” he said.

“We had a conversation last week about what happened at Rose Hill…about what we can do to make Fordham a better place,” Eldredge said. “Now that we’ve had something on our campus, we need to do more than what we’ve planned [to do].”

The conversation continued at a town hall meeting hosted by Campbell and Residential Life on Feb. 28 in McMahon Hall’s eighth floor lounge, three floors below where the incident occurred. Much of the discussion, attended by students and administrators from a wide range of clubs and departments, focused mainly on whether or not there should be a mandatory diversity training for incoming students. Fordham officials are considering the implementation of a mandatory diversity program, but the details are not yet concrete, according to Campbell.

Other topics discussed included the responsibility of students, especially student leaders, to encourage and enforce an accepting environment for all Fordham community members. Administrators and students alike echoed this message of peer responsibility, as well as the need to ensure that Lincoln Center students feel safe at their college homes. Although some students complained about a lack of communication between administrators and students, others applauded the quick reactions to this second incident.

Daniel Drolet, FCLC ’12 and vice president of Rainbow Alliance, said that he was impressed by Fordham’s “quick and
diligent” response.“Because this incident was written in a public space, [Fordham was] able to take immediate action in addressing this,” he said. However, he wonders if the response would have been as immediate if the previous incident did not happen.

Jeffrey Gray, senior vice president of student affairs, was one of the administrators that responded immediately to the incident and sent a blast email to the Fordham community on Feb. 27. “There is no room at Fordham University for bigotry of any kind, directed at any individual or group,” Gray said in an email.

FCLC’s United Student Government (USG), also tweeted about the incident on the same day: “Any form of bias or slur is absolutely unacceptable at Fordham. We stand against the homophobic slur in McMahon Hall.”

“We as students must always remember to never accept any acts of prejudice, bias or hate,” FCLC ’12 and president of USG Ryan O’ Toole said. “I strongly condemn this act and I promise that USG will do everything it can to promote a community of love and respect amongst all students at the Lincoln Center campus.”

In addition, Campbell said that she wants students who feel “marginalized” or out of place in the community to reach out to Residential Life so that they are aware of these feelings. “All of the offices––Counseling, Mission and Ministry, Residential Life, Dean of Students, OSLCD––are here to help students having difficulties with these issues,” she said.

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The following is a university-wide statement sent by Jeffrey Gray, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs.

University-Wide Statement | March 2, 2012

Dear Members of the University Community:

On Friday, March 2, Custodial Services discovered a racial slur in a bathroom in Goupil Hall. Administrators in Student Affairs and Security were notified immediately and responded to the hall.

We are disturbed that this is the third bias-related incident reported in less than a month at the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses. There is no indication that this incident is related to the previous two, but we are taking these occurrences very seriously.

An investigation by Fordham Security is already underway. As always, the investigators are taking a multipronged approach, which includes interviewing potential witnesses, examining the physical evidence, and employing various other resources within the University. We strongly encourage anyone with information on this, or any other, incident to report it to the staff in Residential Life, Multicultural Affairs, Security or the office of the Dean of Students—in strict confidentiality, should you so desire.

The Office of Residential Life staff will be holding floor meetings in the residence hall today, and is working at both campuses with student government leaders who join the administration in condemning this behavior and in asking that it end, in the interest of all students and the University community. In addition, the University encourages all of its members to participate in the vigil that student groups are planning, which is scheduled to take place at Rose Hill on Thursday, March 8. A similar event is being planned for Thursday, March 8, at Lincoln Center. We also encourage your active participation in ongoing initiatives which will be sponsored in collaboration with student government leaders. These and other ongoing programs by student groups and offices around campus will be advertised in the coming weeks as well.

The Fordham community should know that we will not hesitate to pursue internal disciplinary measures, and criminal prosecution, should the circumstances warrant it. Such behavior is unacceptable, and in fact antithetical to Fordham’s values and mission. Bigotry has no place in civilized discourse, much less within the walls of the academy. As a Jesuit university we rightly hold ourselves to elevated standards of speech and behavior. The individual or individuals who have committed these acts fall woefully short of those standards.

My office will keep the University community informed of any progress in these investigations. Let me remind you that, under University policy, anyone who feels they are the target of a crime–bias or otherwise–may file a police report, and will be assured of the University’s assistance and support in doing so.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey Gray
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs

Note: Harry Huggins’ article regarding the finding of homophobic graffiti in McMahon can be found here