I haven't yet touched the subject of the incident of race-based vandalism at Purdue. I haven't written about it here, haven't written about it to the Exponent, and only made about one comment concerning it on Facebook. I have been thinking about how I feel best to respond to this event, and I think I finally know how I want to talk about it. I think this unfortunate event is important, I just haven't compiled my thoughts completely on the subject to write about it. Yet I think I need to discuss it, because of what it means for Purdue.
Racial bias is nothing new to people at Purdue. People keep touting that Purdue is somehow diverse, yet I can't help but feel it isn't. If you want numbers, they can be found here. While I could compare these numbers to state and national averages, discuss the gender disparity, et cetera, I don't think that makes a point that people listen to. I don't think people listen to that kind of argument. They will find a way to write it off (probably through victim blaming), and we will get nowhere.
What this race-based vandalism represents, to me, is another incident of disillusionment with Purdue. Another case I can add to those I have discussed (and not discussed) about how Purdue isn't inclusive. People say they are shocked by this, that this doesn't represent how Purdue feels to the "us'es," and how this is a rare occurrence. I will venture to say that this isn't rare. Vandalism based on the categories in Purdue's nondiscrimination policy is common, at least from my experiences. It is clear that university memory is short. I haven't heard anybody bring up the painted tree incident in 2008. While that event was a while ago, it was another case of reported and discussed race-based vandalism. That reported and discussed part are important, as I feel most of these events are ignored or not reported.
I have discussed vandalism before. Fliers removed. Display cases written on. Words scrapped off of window painting. I haven't even discussed the dorms, which I think we can all imagine what kind of things are written on people's whiteboards. I don't feel going into depth about this as a systematic problem will help much either. I thus want to address the issue as follows:
What I want to see come out of this event of vandalism is something substantial. With the painted tree incident, CORE came to fruition. CORE has meant a lot of a number of minority student groups (I at least can speak from my own experience with LGBTQ issues). These bias events are far too common. The vast majority of them are just ignored, or not reported. What I really would like to see is this event being used to push out the new online bias reporting. From what I have seen, people haven't been discussing this system. Online bias reporting is a huge deal. Yet it isn't being discussed. It needs to be. People need to talk about it. The university needs to advertise it. From my perspective, that has not been done. Purdue's president sent out an email to every student at Purdue. That would have been a prime opportunity to get this online bias reporting out to the students. It could have been a, "We had this incident. Let's do something about it. Report bias incidents." Let's get the bias reporting system out there. Let's make it a habit for people to report. That will help us get an idea of how truly deep and common bias incidents are at Purdue. That will also give people the tools they need to do something about it. Let's make the message from this clear - Purdue won't tolerate bias incidents, and we will start with making sure those incidents are reported.
To report a bias incident at Purdue, use this webform.