Students say racial concern at Colgate University isn't new

May 10, 2017

A discussion about race has been sparked at Colgate University in Hamilton after the campus went into lockdown last week because a black student was carrying a glue gun. Some students say unfortunately, this conversation is nothing new for the private university.

A few fliers that say "Black Lives Matter" and "White Silence is Violence" now hang in the entranceway of Colgate university's campus center called the Coop. This is the building where a black student was seen carrying what appeared to be a gun. It led Colgate to issue an incorrect warning about an active shooter.

Graduating senior Lucas Musetti says the incident has shaken his confidence in the university.

"Up until Monday, I was regretful about leaving campus and now I’m ready to leave," Musetti said. "I understand that it happens everywhere but it is kind of shocking when it comes home like this."

In a statement, Colgate President Brian Casey said the university would work to understand the role implicit racial bias and profiling played in both the reporting of the student and the response from safety and university officials. Casey says as a first step, the campus safety director has been placed on leave. 

But even as Colgate undergoes a comprehensive review of the incident, some students like Alexis Beamon do not expect any meaningful changes.

"We’ve been having issues with racism on campus since I’ve been here and since before a lot of other people have been here," Beamon said. "Colgate likes to brush it under the rug and pretend that nothing is happening and throw money at cultural groups to kind of silence them. I think at this point it’s not something that can be ignored anymore because somebody could have died."

In recent years Colgate has faced backlash over the delayed rebranding of a residence hall named for a former university president with a history of white supremacy remarks. And in 2014 students held a sit-in at the university to demand a more inclusive environment on campus.

Colgate has since implemented more diversity training for its staff and other corrective measures, but Casey says there is more work to be done.

"This has been a difficult, painful several hours on this campus," Casey said in a statement. "My obligation is, first, to demand a full accounting of what happened. My next obligation is to take steps to ensure the safety of all Colgate students, faculty and staff. My final obligation—my desire—is to improve Colgate. If there is anything that can and should come from these events it must be that concrete steps are taken to make Colgate a better place, and a university worthy of both regard and respect."