Arielle Levin Becker, The Hartford Courant, November 8, 2008
The anonymous, racially offensive Web posting that inspired a rally against racism at Trinity College last month was written by a black student who wanted to see how her schoolmates would respond.
Ikejimba [Lynda Ikejimba, who wrote the Web posting] wrote in her apology that race relations “have not been optimal” on campus and that she wanted to find out how students felt about recent efforts to improve the culture at Trinity. She thought using the anonymous online forum TrinTalk would elicit honest answers and hoped that students would respond in disgust.
She called the post “the product of an egregious lapse in judgment” and said she did not intend that the comments leave the Web forum.
The comments disparaged minority students and said their admission to the college correlated with a drop in the college’s rankings.
Days after the post appeared, more than 200 students, staff, faculty and administrators attended a rally to reject the comments and show that they embraced diversity. College officials also said the argument in the post was untrue; the representation of minority-group members in the freshman class increased this year, as did the college’s rankings.
“It would be wrong to conclude, based on the revelation in that letter of apology, that we don’t have work to do in understanding issues of race on this campus, just as it would have been wrong to conclude, based on the one anonymous posting, that the problems are worse than they are,” [Dean of Students Frederick Alford] said.
Several people on campus said they hoped that people will separate Ikejimba’s posting from broader racial issues that need to be addressed. Some said they worried that the post would allow people to dismiss racial incidents in the future.
The Trinity College community rallied on Monday, Oct. 27, in an effort to combat racism on campus as was recently exhibited in a post on the Anonymous Confession Board (ACB) at TrinTalk.com.
Despite dropping temperatures and darkening skies, students, and faculty alike stood out front of Mather Hall for over an hour listening to speeches and personal reactions from administrators, professors, and students.
In his words to the group, President James F. Jones, Jr. remarked that he wished he had a mirror to hold up to crowd so that those listening could see what he saw: a crowd full of diversity. “One thing we have learned from existentialists is that we are responsible for what we say and what we do,” said Jones as he condemned the writer of the posting for hiding behind “a shield of anonymity.” Further, he declared he was proud of the fact that 25 percent of the Class of 2012 comes from some sort of diverse background.
Associate Professor of Sociology Johnny Williams memorably called the rally “bullshit” for being ineffective and called on the school to implement policies to change the existing status quo. “Don’t feel good when you leave this. Feel uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable all the time on this goddamned campus,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of The Council on Campus Climate, College Chaplain Allison Read said, “Greater than affirming solidarity with students who feel outside a perceived mainstream culture, we seek to define our community as inclusive of students of color as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered. The tasks of respecting each other’s dignity and living with integrity belong not to the few but to all members of the community. Each of us is a keeper of our community standards.”
Apparently written by a student sitting in the basement of the Raether Library, the poster refered to fellow students as “simian creatures” and blamed the presence of minority students on lower GPAs, lower SAT and ACT scores, and less alumni giving. The post concludes with, “Put simply, we let in worse candidates and the outcome is a worse school.”
A website administrator removed the offending post before many members of the school could view it, however copies were passed around campus.
TrinTalk founder, Michael DiPietro ‘11, ignored requests for comments.
Rosalia Abreu ‘11 and members of the newly-founded Trinity Students Organized Against Racism (T-SOAR), organized the rally, giving students a forum to express their reactions.
“It saddened me that even one person on this campus would think so lowly of me and other students of color on this campus,” said Abreu. “However, instead of becoming bitter and wrongfully assuming that these sentiments reflect those of the entire student body, I decided to channel all of my energy into a more positive reaction.”
Upon learning about the existence of the racist post, Jones sent out a mass e-mail to the greater community that said, “Nothing quite damages a community as does sneakiness since no one is sure who, or how many, think this way. This behavior undermines the trust that is essential to making a community work,” wrote Jones. “[Trinity] welcomes provocative art, speech, and other forms of expression, but would hope that members of this community could conduct that discourse on a higher level or that anyone who espouses ideas that are likely to offend others would at least have the conviction and courage to do identify herself or himself.”