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Pennsylvania state senator releases report of ‘severe’ racism at state universities

A recent report about the “severe” racism and racial discrimination at Pennsylvania’s universities was announced on January 30 at West Chester University.

According to The Quad, the report titled “ENOUGH” is the culmination of an “18-month-long listening tour” of the 14 schools that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, or PASSHE.

State Senator Art Haywood and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission Executive Director Chad Lassiter visited the schools between 2022 and 2023 and garnered over 170 comments from about 100 students regarding “racist speech, stereotyping, inequitable educational opportunities and inadequate faculty representation.”

“Black and brown students in the state system are alienated from the campus community in ways that are damaging to the students personally, to the Black and brown school community, and to the schools collectively,” the report says according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Pennsylvania must move beyond its racist past — there is no other option.”

The report notes three higher ed institutions in particular — California, Clarion and Edinboro (which now have combined to form Pennsylvania Western University) — were singled out as having “the most egregious accounts of racism” and should be considered “hostile environments for Black and brown students.”

Specific complaints in the report include:

— A black student’s “belongings” were stolen by white students, who subsequently made a video in which they “pretended to lynch” the (black) student’s teddy bear.

— A Confederate flag was hung on a student’s dorm door.

— White students say “Black people are so loud and obnoxious” when they see black students on a basketball court.

MORE: Black professor warns universities about ‘destructive’ demands from anti-racism activists

— A linguistics professor used an example of “n— er” vs. “n—a” in class and “did not think it was an issue.” Students reported feeling uncomfortable “but felt scared to speak up about the incident.”

— During a class discussion on slavery, a professor “turned to two Black students in class and began asking them questions, ‘as if they had experienced it.’”

— Schools “do nothing” when “white radical groups” come and speak on campus, “despite students feeling unsafe.”

— Campus staff make students feel uncomfortable when the latter are garbed in “social justice t-shirts.”

— “White professors on campus seem to have a white savior mentality.”

Haywood said “We have unfortunately heard dozens of these same stories. These students are being denied an education.” He recommended all colleges in the PASSHE “adopt a code of conduct on racial harassment, develop a reporting system that would allow students quick responses from campus leaders, and continue to develop retention programs to increase graduation rates for students of color.”

Following a similar report in 2020, Haywood said that a “redesign” of state colleges “[should] be done in a way that African American students can feel comfortable attending these institutions.”

For his part, in early 2019 Lassiter (pictured) chided a school principal who had dressed up as “Family Feud” host Steve Harvey for a staff “team-building exercise,” saying she demonstrated her “white privilege.” Around the same time, he declared a state high school’s nickname of “Redskins” was a “teachable moment on colonialism.”

While president of the group Black Men at Penn, Lassiter had alleged Temple University was “carving out a white enclave” in North Philadelphia, thus making the school “as bad as any white Southern oppressor from back in the day.”

MORE: Scholar: ‘Are universities driving racism?’

IMAGES: Shutterstock.com; “ENOUGH” report

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.