By Elizabeth Zakaim
College president Kathryn A. Foster released an email emphasizing the need for inclusion and diversity on campus on Saturday, Nov. 17. This announcement came just a day after one student on campus took to social media to post about a racial encounter he experienced Friday night.
Marcus Allen, a junior African American studies and journalism and professional writing double major, tweeted early Saturday morning about how students on campus yelled racial slurs at him from their residence hall on Friday night.
“I am truly disheartened by this incident,” his initial tweet read.
Foster stressed that the school does not tolerate instances of racial bias or any other forms of discrimination targeted toward any population in the community.
“Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, abilities, and other differences enrich the TCNJ community, are fundamental to our values of universal inclusion, and demonstrate the rich diversity of our broader society,” Foster’s email read. “Individual behaviors of bias, incivility and disrespect undermine what it means to study, teach and work at TCNJ. We value the very characteristics that some have chosen to demean.”
Allen recalled in more detail what happened to him Friday night at around 11:30 p.m. He was walking to Tdubs with other friends and fellow members of his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Inc., when he thought he heard shouting coming from the third floor of Wolfe Hall.
He said he couldn’t tell what they were saying at first, but he eventually understood that the words were racial slurs targeted toward him and his friends.
“‘N*****, n*****, n*****, you’re a porch monkey n*****,’” he heard the people yell.
When Allen moved closer to identify where the sound was coming from, he heard them continue to exclaim slurs.
“‘Get down, those n****** are gonna shoot us,’” Allen heard.
He and his friends went to report to Wolfe Hall’s community adviser on duty, who went to the third floor to investigate. According to Allen, the CA knocked on the door to the room where the slurs were heard. No one answered the door. The CA asked other students next door who were walking back and forth from room to room, but no one claimed ownership of the room where Allen had heard the slurs coming from.
Later that night, a little before midnight, Allen turned to Facebook and Twitter to vent his feelings. He said he felt Foster was prompted to send her email after his tweets because he knew that a lot of faculty and administration follow him on social media.
“I’m glad the school is taking the steps that are needed in this situation but I know this is not an isolated incident,” Allen said. “I’m not the only person on campus who does not feel welcome here, who does not feel safe.”
Allen could not specify which incidents he was referring to that may have occurred at the College where students felt unsafe, but said that he heard of such instances from other students who did not want them reported.
Allen, who grew up in Ewing and now lives in Trenton, considered himself to be a voice for the local community. He is hurt and feels unsafe at a school where he has invested so much of his time effort.
The past couple of days have been an emotional roller coaster for him as he has been processing what happened.
“Honestly it was a shock,” he said. “I’ve cried, I’ve been depressed and I’ve been angry. It’s traumatizing for any person of color to deal with –– specifically a black person.”
Professors at the College responded to Allen’s tweets with messages of support.
Kim Pearson, a journalism and professional writing professor at the College, expressed her sympathies. She had not only had Allen as a student, but she wrote on Twitter that she had known him since he was a baby.
Pearson, who is a longtime faculty member at the College, said she is tired of hearing about incidents like Allen’s in her 28 years here.
“I’m horrified, but I’m also kind of weary,” she said. “I’ve seen this movie before.”
According to Foster’s email, the College will be holding a campus-wide meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at noon in Kendall Hall. The event, which aims to initiate open dialogue about ways to improve the College’s efforts to foster an inclusive community, is cosponsored by Student Government, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.
“For many decades the TCNJ culture has provided a safe and enriching environment, the benefits of which continue long after a student graduates,” Foster wrote in her email. “Together we will protect and enhance this valuable culture and commit again to dignity and respect for all.”