Meredith alumna calls out professor who used racial slurs
Meredith College students and alumnae hold a news conference to express outrage over a faculty member who used racial slurs in a class.
Good afternoon and welcome to today's press conference. My name is Sarah Marshall. I'm an educator, anti racist activist and, above all today, a concerned alumni of MEREDITH College. Following my comments, we will have the pleasure to hear from Mia Angelou, president of the peaceful Protests, and Yolanda Taylor, Ah, lawyer and legal expert in equity work. Today we're here to express our solidarity with students and to discuss the rampant racism that has continued to cause harm to black indigenous students of color. At our alma mater, I will begin reading. I will begin by reading the quote verbatim. Last semester I had a professor used the n word in class. As then she said the word N i g E r. The class was shook. I was reported. It was reported to a dean. Dean didn't do anything. Then during the next class, the professor justified her actions by saying she wasn't from America and ah, lot of people don't know the n word. I told her that she could use other words to get her point across, but she kept gaslighting me saying, But I'm not from America. By the end of the class, she said, that I made a good point by telling her to use the N word instead of saying it. Afterwards, she sent an apology email, but the damage had already been done. C. Furthermore, accused me of cheating on an assignment. Also last semester, that post was from an anonymous student of the Class of 2022. On November 18th, 2020 10 year professor Dr Beer Nique Mash Laden made the deplorable decision to intentionally incorporate racial slurs into the love of her violent racial slurs, including the N word and several others to describe African creo Americans and black people's. Once her inappropriate use of these terms were flagged by multiple students, she continued to repeatedly badgered the students with additional racist slurs, causing even more students to begin to plead with her to stop. Following this student professor interaction students followed proper protocol and filed a complaint with the professor Superior Dean Sara Roth. Unfortunately, rather than expediting this urgent report, Dean Roth intentionally slowed the process and offered no resolve. Instead, she placed the burden on the students to attempt to have this conversation with the professor and explained to her why these terms are inappropriate on Wednesday, November 18th, 2020 MEREDITH College BIPAC students learned firsthand the harm that can be caused by negative interactions with professors. MEREDITH students cannot condone AH, professor that feels comfortable using hate speech and what should be a safe academic space. We will not prioritize the protection of the professors at fault and risk further harm to our peers. Equitable educators know that trauma is stored in the body and that the stress of racism disproportionately impacts by pot folks. Dr. Sarah Roths Inability to properly handle this unacceptable behavior and cultural insensitivity at an institutional level is indeed an act of violence. Like so many other black students in America, the alumna of MEREDITH College are deeply troubled by what has happened to them and demand subsidence policy and procedure changes. This is unacceptable behavior and pedagogy from a department head and academic advisor and directly contradicts the expectations outlined in the faculty handbook regarding the nondiscrimination policy and statements about academic freedom. Further, the repetitive use of racial epithets like the n word, both allowed in class and when used in curriculum, is psychological and academic violence on black students. The use of this racial slur sends a strong, implicit message to other students, particularly those who identify as white about our colleges, core values and beliefs. Institutions of higher education like MEREDITH College should be safe for all students to engage in learning. When students do not feel safe and need support to resolve these issues, they should have equitable access to re sources, such as mental health professionals of color to support them. Because, while responding to inequity has become popular, we must replace performative activism with intentional spaces that encourage students to question and challenge the oppressive systems that have worked to uphold this white supremacy. Upon further investigation, there have been formal and informal complaints brought against the dean of the arts and humanities department, where Dr Mash Laden teachers Dr Sara Roth on numerous occasions has belittled in silence the voices of BIPAC students when they have contacted her to receive academic, social and emotional support as she is in a position of leadership and expected to eight students in need. Unfortunately, this has proven to be far from the truth is Dr Roth has weaponized her authority to bury students numerous reports for retribution. We understand in order to grasp the academia of this particular subject matter that there will be used usage of certain words that are offensive in this container. There's a lack of cultural sensitivity that was not used. Antiquated works must be contextualized and taught in ways that are not triggering and traumatizing. This requires accountability when incidents of academic abuse of present traumatic experience experiences like this are all too often ubiquitous in the lives of by pop votes. And sadly, this truth still pervades our campus. When professors are allowed to teach these particular courses, it's unacceptable. Toe lack. The needed cultural sensitivity training that would equip professors for the to be the right messenger and be resource is in these moments in our effort to protect and support BIPAC students. It is our goal to normalize this kind of open and honest dialogue and our collective efforts to dismantle white supremacy and remove bias from our classrooms and beyond. Hello, everyone. My name is Mia Angelo. I'm located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I'm an educator, and I'm also the activists and residents at a high school here, as well as the president of an organization called the Peaceful Protest. First, um, I want to thank the MEREDITH College women for entrusting me being on this board and being a voice for this, um, and finding value in what I can input. The reason we are gathered here, though, is quite disheartened, disheartening and very uncomfortable. However, I know that in order for true change to occur, we must have the uncomfortable conversations. So again, I just want to recognize the women who have put this together so that we have a platform to have this uncomfortable conversation. Um, I want to begin by saying on the subject matter that people who are not of color have absolutely no right to judge or, better yet, dismissed how derogatory and racial slurs are directed at people of color and how that makes people of color feel and racial slurs were used to strip people of their identities. I don't think some people realize that it was all a part of attempting to dehumanize enslaved people on din. The words of Palo Freer, the oppressor who dehumanizes Thea Press, lacks humanity within themselves. It is not the oppressors that are unaware of the disparity racial slurs carry with them is the lack of humanity within them and willingness toe practice anti racism within their classrooms because it's not enough to say I'm not racist. It it takes educating yourself and learning and to actually practice anti racism within your classroom, which includes eliminating racial slurs from being said. Um, like I said, I'm an educator. I read with my kids all the time. It's a simple as me seeing a cuss word or something like that and going over it. You don't have to say it. I could say the f like, say, the F word instead of actually saying it. But the point is, they know it's there. I know it's there, but we don't have to say it, and that's because it's inappropriate. And now, when it comes to racial slurs that is attacking an entire group of people, so why can it not be a simple as you know it's there? We can't erase history. It's there. It's in the textbooks, but we don't have to speak it out loud. We don't have to trigger people. We don't have to bring about these words that carry with it so much violence and oppression and hurt and low self esteem, and the list honestly goes on, um, it's so easy to just go over it while also simultaneously being able to make the point that the text, whatever you're reading, is trying to make. Um, and another thing, somebody who has recently graduated every student there is extending their time, their energy, their money, and their vital resource is to receive a higher education. Every single one of them deserves to feel safe, deserves to feel heard, deserves not to feel traumatized simply because you want to use a racial slur within your classroom and claim that you had no idea the story behind that word. Um, and at the very end of the day, I believe that this comes down to empathy. Do you really care about your students as much as you say you do, and or do you just care about some of them? Do you really care about the black indigenous people of color as Muchas all of your other students show us? Because this you have by pox students at your school right now feeling invisible, feeling unworthy at your expense because this can be addressed. And now I know some people are wondering how well a good place to start would be holding professors accountable for their actions. For their words. Um, and apologies must be continued. And I know she mentioned that there was an apology. The damage had already been done, but I feel like more than one person owes an apology. Um, and yes, damage has been done, but that's a start. Another place to begin would to make diversity, including inclusion, training as well as racial equity training. Ah, must a requirement by not only administration by professors, by students by every single person on campus, so that every person on campus feel safe. Um, and lastly encourage everybody not only going through those courses but learning how to practice anti racism after those courses, um, and encourage togetherness because with togetherness, you'll fight through this together and come together and love and educate one another and extend empathy. That's that's the biggest thing nobody will ever understand, unless you are a person of color, what it means to be a person of color in America. But you can sit down and you can listen and have these difficult conversations like we're having right now, and try your hardest to empathize with us. and to amplify our voices so that we can bring about change in dismantle white supremacy. Um, but that's about that's my message. Um, and I thank you all for your time. And I hope after today we can get some diversity inclusion, training and some accountability here. I'm MEREDITH College. Thank you for having me. Hi, I'm Yolanda Taylor. I am a lawyer that works in the area of equity and communities. I wanna extend a great thank you and appreciation to the women and the students who have entrusted me to be in the space today to stand in solidarity with you as a lawyer that fights for justice and equity in their communities that I served. I don't enter these communities. Assuming that I am the expert are assuming that I have all the knowledge regarding the experiences, the history or the culture of the people that I work with. It's a mutual is change of knowledge and it's a mutual. It changes change of respect. Therefore, I have to work hard. Even though my skin is black, I work hard to put on a cloak of cultural competency. I work hard to make sure I'm viewing things through a trauma informed blends in a racial justice equity lens, I will say the same is needed for our institutions of higher learning. Just because you're a professor and you're obsessively the expert in your subject matter does not mean that you are able to come into a classroom and not learn from the students. What I hear here is this grave disrespect that has occurred in an academic, um, space That's supposed to be, um, a space that not just shapes our our minds, you know, in ourselves. But that also feeds our spirits. Right when we go to college, you are were present in any academic set, and we're hoping that there's an offering that we receive and that there's a offering that we can give here. It seems as if this professor and as a lawyer, I'm going to say the alleged allegations against this professor is that this professor challenge the truth and the experiences that the student that the students were trying Thio having this change with her about right and challenging the person's true and challenging a person experiences is actually bringing the mantle of white supremacy into the classroom because you're putting people. You're valuing people based on a hierarchy you're saying because I'm not oppressed. You know my opinion, and what I value is higher than your opinion and what you value. And that's not cultural competency. Um, as stated before, it is insensitive. So So my thoughts around this whole situation is that this is not this should not be the environment that students have to subject themselves to. This should not be an environment that our institutions of learning right, that that they're holding up the standard of white supremacy in the classroom. When these air the saying This is the same type of environment that students come from, right? So I just find it, you know, personally appalling that this even occurred in the classroom. But I do find it encouraging that the students had the heart, the passion and the solidarity. To stand, you know, against injustices was like you're saying we in our fight to dismantle inequity and injustice in society. It's not just in our protest. It's not just in lifting our voices. It is in making sure that we dismantle policies, policies that may systemic systematically impact us. You know, wherever we are, be a community or being at institution. So Okay, I don't know if the school has done this already, but if I was the leader of the dean off the school, I would immediately issue some kind of public statement condemning these actions, right? Letting the community know letting our city no letting our student population know that this is not the type of environment that is going to be Condoned at this university. Right, Because this university is not just made up of of white people. It's not just made up of black people is not just made up of, you know, people of color. This is a device, diverse learning environment. So that should be one thing that should come out of this. What, and grounding all of the recommendations that should come out of this should be the voices of those students who had to sit in that classroom and be subjected and further traumatize. You know, on DWhite surprises me even more Is that this is a professor based on my understanding that teaches culture. Right, but but you're not culturally competent on describing culture. And how can you tell your students who are black and brown What the contents of an offensive word is when you have not lived that experience. I mean, you're talking to people who are probably descendants of enslaved people who had to face that word right while they were being whipped while they were being killed while they were being lynched. And and because it's not offensive to you, you're saying therefore, it's not offensive. I just really find that, you know, appalling. You know that that this occurred and I really I don't feel my empathy goes to the students, you know who had to sit there and be traumatized. I remember that I was a student at N. C. State, and I remember, you know, one night, me and my friends, we were at the African American Culture Center. You know where we will have our parties. And then when we were having a party, there was some students, you know, in a dormitory. We couldn't see them, but the dormitory was like three or four stories. They were yelling the n word out of the window at us just because we were parting and we were gathering, you know, at an event, and you know so so we know that these things occur, you know, anyway, probably within a student population. But then toe have an institution actually hold this up and allow this to occur. To me, it's just outrageous and egregious. So, you know, again, diversity cannot be had without inclusion. Okay, You can't just have multiracial people, multicultural people, if you're not going to be inclusive off their concerns of the experiences they bring and the truth that they stand on so again, a perfect academic set and will be one that allows us change of ideas. And it seems like these students were really trying to do that. They were trying to educate their own professor, but it fell on deaf ears because again they were devalued and their concerns were not on the same level as her concerns and her allegedly being in her defensive posture. But to have this word, you know, used repeatedly repeatedly again that the university needs to immediately release a statement saying that it does not condone this environment, um, anywhere within this university and that it respects you know what these students had to say in the truth that they stood on that day and that racism and white supremacy, you know, has no place in the institution of higher learning. And then they should sit down with students and have a meaningful conversation where students are actually able to lift up their concerns and even make recommendations regarding what policies should be put in place. Going forward. Thank you. Wow. Thank you both. So much for those insights. Thank you. Mia Angelou, the president of peaceful protests in our community. Leader Yolanda Taylor. Really? For taking this time to stand in solidarity as we seek this justice and for the equitable changes that we need on our campus, but also for taking the time to really listen to our stories. I want to say in this time another thank you to the journalists and community members, reporters and viewers for sharing your time and energy with us today and grounding these efforts, I will now mention our list of demands. First released a public apology from MEREDITH College professor Dr Mash Laden and Dean Dr Sara Roth. Conduct a formal investigation into Dean Sara Roth. Ensure the immediate firing of Dr Mash Ladin without paid leave or severance package. Ensure the immediate reassignment of all black, indigenous and students of color from Dr Mash Laden's student and Vaezi roster to the academic advisor of their choosing as appropriate. Provide restitution of course fees to impact it. Students, as determined by the investigation, ensure that all impacted students. Records are cleared for any impact to grade or status guarantee. Financial resource is for mental health support from licensed black mental health professionals and ensure that these services are accessible to all impacted students. Require mandatory an ongoing diversity equity and inclusion training for all non BIPAC MEREDITH College faculty, staff and employees. And finally, institute racial equity and social justice courses and enrichment opportunities is part of graduation requirements for all students. Thank you for taking the time to hear our stories and the story of this impacted student. Your attention will help us prioritize restorative justice for our students, retro retribution and the support that they deserve as we call on MEREDITH College to demand that we do better today, March 23rd Oops, February 23rd marks the start of our alma martyrs giving day in lieu of giving to the college at large. We urge that if you consider the following, we urged if you consider the following scholarships that are geared towards BIPAC students at MEREDITH College, the Alma Langley scholarship, the Gwendolyn Matthew 71 scholarship and Good Night Education Foundation scholarship students have already led a virtual protest and have been phone banking to express our outrage about what our college has Condoned at an institutional level, it it's students, investment and racial justice. That proves what strong really looks like. It is in these brave acts of solidarity, accountability and resistance that MEREDITH college students find ways to grapple with our past and honor those before us that have shown us a better way. It is in our dedication to protect one another that allows us to stand together and advocacy for a better MEREDITH. If you like to support these students directly, the campaign can be found on Instagram at Deer Americo at Symbol D. E. A R M e r E c o ah group unaffiliated with the college. If you like a copy of the full letter that contains the sequence of events along with our list of demands, you can let me know. I'll drop my email in the chat below. Everyone who RSVP'd here today will also receive a copy. A copy of this full letter will also be sent over to our president, Joe Allen, to read after this press conference at this time will open a brief Q and A to take some questions I see from 10. Pulliam. Um, answer. His question was MEREDITH College leadership released a statement today saying they learned in mid February about the incident. The statement says that they regret the pain it has caused. They're investigating. The matter is they continue to work on their anti racist activism. What is your response to this paraphrase statement? Yeah, I would start by saying that is concerning that this incident was reported formally to the dean of the college, and this grievance took place last year and the colleges just now stating that they found that this is egregious behavior. This is also part of why we're here today. It's unacceptable that this behavior was not made aware to the president and that these students didn't result, didn't receive resolve in 2020 it's 2021 which is exactly why we're here today stating that MEREDITH College must be held accountable for the for real change and true oversight. And that could be also that is also reflected in our list of demands. I see, um, did current from Liz Slope Shell. Um, er, excuse me, if I'm mispronouncing that the current MEREDITH College students reach out to initiate this press common friends and stare, if you could better. If you could explain what you were quoting about when you gave an account of the students experiences, I would say that students initiated this virtual protests that extended the movement. The unaffiliated instagram account Dear Americo States, enlists numerous accounts of racism, prejudice and bias that has been found on our campus and an effort to protect the students of color and the students involved in these situations and scenarios. I am here today on there we have, um, I see there was a question from Tim earlier above. List comment. Okay, Thank you for that. I see now it says Tim had said, Do you think the professors alleged actions of were racist or a lack of awareness and racial sensitivity? I mean science to answer that. If you don't mind, I mean, I will definitely say it will say lack of awareness and racial sensitivity, which is surprising again because this is a professor that teaches culture and obsessively is aware of the contents of such language and culture. So definitely racial insensitivity. Sorry about that. But as far as it being racist, I mean, I don't think racist or racism is necessarily a noun or pronoun. I think racism is a abject adjective that we should identify. Whenever we see it, we should describe it, and we should work to dismantle it, which is what the students are trying to do. So, yes, I think you know the back and forth and the challenging off what the students were saying, Hey, you're offended me that challenging the students concerns and feelings was indeed a She was lifting at racist beliefs and saying that this is not an offensive word to me or to others. It may be offensive to you. So she was indeed lifting. I believe it. Racist belief in the classroom. Thank you for that. Yolanda Taylor. I completely agree we're not here today to determine the mind of a professor were hold. We're here today to hold that professor accountable for the damage and lack of resolve for these students. our students are our priority. And it's not the students responsibility to educate their professors in spaces that we're paying for to actively have the Freedom toe learn without being figure. The professor did not display the racial sensitivity needed, and it is also unacceptable that Dean Roth put the responsibility on the students and gave them the burden of handling this incident instead of creating real resolve. It's also unacceptable that this dean and professor are still advising these students if they had not received racial, if they had received racial equity training and had proven that they're qualified to teach these subjects, we might not be here today having these conversations. But the fact of the matter is, this language was normalized, and it continued to reinforce the trauma that we know exist in the bodies and lives of by Fox students. Mhm. You see, I'm sorry. I'm going to read through some more questions. Uh huh. And I would like Thio mention to Liz this point, Um, that this that direct quote from the student can be found on Dear America, along with other students, accounts of the egregious racism that we've experienced on campus, and that's at D E R E M E r E c o could ah, all right. Holden's question of Sarah as an alumna. What was the environment like it? MEREDITH, During your time as a student, do you feel like racism is prevalent on campus as a mixed woman that is white passing? I can tell you first hand that while I enjoyed and loved the women that I've met on campus and the many positive experiences and exchanges that I've had, I have personally experienced that racism from certain professors in the administration at large. And there's often been the feeling that there's nothing that can be done about it. It there's often the feeling that even if you go to the appropriate resource is that you will be silenced or won't be heard, or your experience is just a drop in the bucket. So we're here today to amplify the pain that so many students, past and present have experienced. This racism is prevalent. Justus, much as just as much as MEREDITH College puts this initiative on our website against anti racism, we must move beyond being performative because it is not enough to be performative and to express these disrespect for black folks, for indigenous folks, for peoples of color and that not be what is the norm in our classrooms? I'll take one more question at this time. I read that, Amanda Lamott said, Do you know if the professor faced any sanctions at the time? We are unaware of any sanctions. It was our understanding that there was no process, no sanctions and no internal support for the students. We will continue to update as follows, with more clarity as we hold MEREDITH College accountable. Thank you. Once again to Yolanda tailor our community legal expert for Mia Angelou, for coming and sharing your insights and for taking the time to stand in solidarity with us. And I wanna once again remind everyone that we will be emailing the demands to everyone who RSVP'd. So be sure to look out for that. I will drop my email in the chat one more time. Thank you, everyone for coming in on this collective effort to prioritize our students. We hope you all have a good day