Race forum receives mixed reviews

On Jan. 30 in the Main Lounge, a forum entitled “Real Talk on Race at Seton Hall” was held.

The Setonian previously reported that this forum was organized by Seton Hall’s administration in response to racist incidents that occurred on campus last fall.

Hundreds of students gathered in the Main Lounge on Jan. 30 to discuss race relations at Seton Hall. Megan O’Brien/Staff Photographer

Hundreds of students attended the forum, which started with a series of poll questions that attendants could answer. The questions started off simply, with the moderators asking students if they would prefer to have a cat or a dog in their home, but the questions quickly switched to the discussion of race.

Some questions included “Have you ever witnessed an incident of racism and/or racial discrimination on campus?” with 56 percent answering yes; and “What word best describes how you feel after hearing of an incident of racism on campus?” The most popular answer was “disappointed.”

Various students and faculty shared their experiences with racism on Seton Hall’s campus while a room full of their peers looked and listened on.

A few students shared how they felt about the forum following the event.

Alex Bloom, a sophomore political science major, felt it was a good thing to hear all of the stories that were told, but felt that the forum could have delved deeper into the discussion of racism at Seton Hall.

“I think that there was a pretty wide array of stories and feelings shared but there is so much more racism going on that the administration didn’t hear due to time constraints,” he said. “I hope that people who experience racist acts come out and talk to administration and make their problems known.”

Bloom also shared why he felt this forum was an important step to take in addressing the racism on campus.

“I think anyone who hasn’t already seen racism is blind to it due to their privilege and it will take time for them to understand and notice all of the racist acts around them every day,” he said. “I see racism everyday whether implicit or explicit and we need to make a change.”

Rawda Abdelmenam, a senior special education and speech pathology major, said that while she was impressed by the turnout to the forum, she felt as though the discussion could have gone more in depth.

“I was impressed by the number of people that attended; it showed that there is a large population of students, faculty and administration that has either been affected by race or is interested in learning more,” she said. “However, I was not satisfied with the event; the questions being asked were geared towards surface topics.”

She added that she wished the talk had addressed some of the racist incidents that have occurred on campus in the past and how the administration handled such situations.

“I’m disappointed with the fact that we didn’t have the open forum to speak on these issues,” she said. “So many students were not happy with this event.”

Abdelmenam concluded by saying that despite not being totally pleased with the talk, she was happy the administration felt it was necessary to hold this forum.

“I understand that this is a step and I commend the university for this effort,” she said, “but it is unfair to offer students an opportunity to converse and resolve issues and have a conversation that is limiting and restrictive.”

Ryan Johnson, a sophomore business marketing and management major, said that overall, he was pleased with the event, but that the “event left a lot to be desired.”

“I think that the moderators did a good job keeping the pace of the event steady. However, I felt that they spoke too much and did not dedicate the majority of the two hours to the concerning students,” he said. “A lot of students were not able to chime in to the dialogue and it felt one-sided at times.”

Johnson also shared his hopes for administrative action going forward.

“I truly hope that administration takes action to the students’ outcry,” he said. “This was a very good step in the right direction, however I think now is the time to develop a plan to help push Seton Hall to new heights of inclusivity, appropriate action, and open conversations in and out of the classroom.”

Lianne Joseph, a sophomore public relations major, said she wished the administration had contributed more to the forum.

“As a student of color on campus hearing from other students of color, I know that one of our biggest problems is that we feel that the administration has not done enough and has not shown that they even care,” she said. “I wanted to hear the faculty’s thoughts on issues brought up by students and have them talk about what they plan to do about it.”

Rev. Dr. Forrest Pritchett, director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Program at Seton Hall, was asked to say a prayer at the end of the talk and shared his thoughts on what SHU’s administration can do going forward to address the issues raised at the forum.

“The issue of race is infused in every aspect of the American experience and American policy for the past 400 years and there is room for all faculty to be involved creatively without sacrificing classroom instruction time,” he said.

The moderators stated at the end of the forum that a survey will be sent to the student body for feedback on the event sometime in the next week.

Isabel Soisson can be reached at isabel.soisson@student.shu.edu.

Author: Isabel Soisson

Isabel Soisson is a journalism major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She currently serves as News Editor of The Setonian, in addition to interning at Philadelphia Magazine. She also studied voice for 6+ years and still continues to on the side.

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