BSU, many in community not satisfied
The campus community received news April 9 that, after concluding its internal investigation, USF expelled the student who admitted to hanging a noose off a Loyola Village balcony.
The noose was found hanging on the apartment balcony March 30, and the incident has since sparked outrage amongst the University community.
The University declined to identify the student who admitted to placing the noose in its email to the community, citing federal privacy regulations in addition to USF’s student code of conduct. The letter went on to explain that although the student was immediately expelled after judicial processes were completed, they still have the right to appeal the ruling.
The University investigation confirmed that the student who created the noose worked alone, and that the noose was left up for an “undetermined amount of time.” Further, the letter — which was signed by University President Paul Fitzgerald, Interim Vice Provost Tyrone Cannon, and Vice Provost of Diversity Engagement and Community Outreach Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi — found that the act was “not directed at another member of the USF community,” though the letter did acknowledge the pain and harm that resulted from the action.
As a response to the University, USF’s Black Student Union (BSU) posted a statement to their Instagram account April 12. The open letter said that the University’s choice to expel the student without acknowledging the intentions behind the action would create further harm to the Black student community. The letter also said that the BSU’s work pushing back against racial transgressions at the University is “just beginning.”
The University investigation also did not find that the incident was racially motivated. However, the University did state it “does not and will not tolerate” events like this “regardless of intent or underlying reasons.”
The University doubled down on its quoting of the USF student code of conduct and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), writing, “All students have a federally protected right to privacy and the university does not release the names of students involved in the conduct process or names of students who are involved in the investigation.”
However, this rhetoric is not seen as an adequate excuse for some in the USF community. “I’m glad the University decided to expel the student, however there are still certain things that need to be done. For instance, the student needs to be named,” the student who first reported the noose incident to Public Safety said. This student, who is Black, lives in Loyola Village across from the balcony where the noose was hung and wished to remain anonymous. “I understand the privacy laws and I understand FERPA and all of that stuff, but also, this is a matter of safety. And since no one really knows the situation as to why the noose was even hung — if it was racially motivated or even if it was not — this is a concern for the safety of students on campus, in particular, the Black students on campus who don’t feel safe at all,” they said.
Despite the community email, the BSU is still demanding the release of the expelled student’s name. The BSU has indicated that they may attempt to reveal the student’s identity on their own accord if the University does not.
Fitzgerald, Cannon, and Ghirarduzzi specifically commended the contributions of the BSU to community well-being and justice in their letter. “We want to acknowledge the continued efforts of the Black Student Union at USF, for not only their activism and contributions in this process, but for their advocacy for the needs of the Black community.”
The BSU first released their demands April 1, which prompted a university response April 2. BSU students went on to speak out against the perceived hate crime and the University’s handling of the situation on KRON 4 News before speaking to other publications such as the San Francisco Chronicle. The student group also published an op-ed in the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. Two weeks ago, directly following the incident, Amida Nigena, a member of the BSU, created a petition on change.org that has gained more than 1,220 signatures at the time of publication.
The BSU stated in their open letter that they “believe that the University would not have taken this course of action had it not been for the continuous negative media attention and efforts of Black students.” And further that “this student’s expulsion was not solely done to protect Black students but as a way to protect USF’s image.”
Kellie Samson, spokesperson for USF, said the University has begun working with students, faculty, and staff on reviewing their protocols and processes on incidents of bias and hate crimes. This review involves the launch of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Incident Response Team and the development of an emergency response system which includes texts and phone calls when a potential hate crime occurs on campus.
“USF is committed to communicating the results of all work related to new and continuing anti-racism processes, protocols, and initiatives in a timely manner,” Samson said.
“I just hope that this isn’t the end,” the student who reported the noose said. “I feel like this incident definitely sets precedents for a lot of new rules and regulations to be put in place at the university level. But I don’t want this just to be swept under the rug and I feel like since the last email was sent, there’s been kind of a halt on all communication regarding this incident.”
Julian E.J. Sorapuru contributed to the reporting of this story.
Paolo Bicchieri is a graduate International Studies student. He is a contributing writer at the Foghorn. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @paoloshmaolo.