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Canisius College faculty call for 'sanctuary campus' after racial incidents

A group of faculty at Canisius College want the institution to increase focus on justice and diversity issues and the college become a "sanctuary campus" in the wake of several racial incidents.

Canisius faculty also want the college administration to create a "director of equity and inclusion" after recent incidents, faculty members wrote in a letter addressed to the college and the "Greater Buffalo Communities" published Friday by The Griffin, the college's student paper.

The three incidents identified in the letter include:

  • Fliers promoting a Black Lives Matter event in October defaced by racial slurs
  • A black doll with strings around its neck that was left in an elevator and later hung from a curtain rod in a dorm room on Nov. 8
  • Someone amplifying the message "Build the Wall" over a speaker during a public assembly on campus on Nov. 9 in reaction to the doll incident.

"We do not and will not minimize these actions," the faculty group said in the letter. "We call these acts what they are: racist. We resist language that minimizes and therefore normalizes racist incidents. Failing to unambiguously name these acts and simultaneously denounce them as racist fosters an environment that condones unacceptable behavior."

The letter, titled "Canisius faculty solidarity letter," was signed by 55 faculty members and more than 200 other people.

College officials investigated the Nov. 8 incident and students involved in the dorm room incident were suspended. The college also said it would be hiring an investigator to review the results of its own investigation and recommend whether the acts should be prosecuted as hate crimes.

The Nov. 9 gathering on campus drew more than 300 students, faculty and staff, the college has previously said. The event was largely spurred by photographs shared of the black doll from the day prior.

(Buffalo News file photo)

Three racial incidents have been reported at Canisius College in recent months. (Buffalo News file photo)

In a statement issued through a spokesperson on Friday, Canisius College President John J. Hurley said the college has already been working towards issues raised by the faculty in their letter.

“Most of the requests contained in the letter are items that have been under active consideration prior to the incident on campus on November 8," Hurley said in a written statement. "A commitment to improving the level of diversity and inclusion on the campus is a key plank of the college’s recently-adopted strategic plan. The goal is to address these issues in a comprehensive way through initiatives that can be sustainable and can create a culture in which our diversity is truly celebrated. We welcome the active involvement of the college’s faculty in this process.”

Calls for the creation of "sanctuary campuses" have arisen around the country following the results of November's presidential election. Supporters of the proposal want colleges to limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials. Schools where this has been called for include the University of North Texas, Texas Woman's University, Texas A&M, Oregon State, as well as Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva.

Just this week, the University of Pennsylvania said it would not allow federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on campus without a warrant.


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