College’s message to bias agitators: Not in our house
Saint Michael’s students poured into the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel on Monday night for a mandatory meeting organized by the Office of Student Life. The meeting was announced earlier in the afternoon to address a mass posting of stickers promoting white nationalism on Saint Mike’s, UVM, and Champlain College campuses the night prior.
Stickers found on the Saint Michael’s campus included slogans like “It’s okay to be white,” “Embrace white identity,” and “Men of the West, don’t give in to hate.” Such postings have recently affected college campuses throughout the nation and can be traced back to online alt-right and white supremacist movements. While those who vandalized Saint Mike’s haven’t yet been identified and it’s unclear whether they included students, the meeting on Monday was a swift and decisive show of zero-tolerance for what the College definitively sees as hate speech.
Speakers expressed a profound disappointment in a current social climate that allows for such incidents and emphasized the crucial importance of a safe environment for students of color. They also reaffirmed that the values at the heart of Saint Michael’s College and its student body will always overwhelm hatred and racism.
Campus Ministry leaders opened and closed the meeting with prayer and statements about the Edmundite tradition and its firm, inherent opposition to incidents like the postings on Sunday night. Fr. Lino Oropeza, SSE ’11 gave the opening prayer, and Fr. Marcel Rainville, SSE ’67 spoke early in the program; to close the program which lasted under an hour, Fr. Michael Carter SSE ’12 read a poem along with words from Scripture.
“They came in the night like thieves,” said Moise St. Louis, associate dean of students and director of the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services. St. Louis called for students to stand together against hate and showed confidence in the integrity of “a community deep in compassion, committed to supporting and protecting each other.” He showed confidence that efforts to spread fear, racism, and hostility in a campus community rooted in social justice, equality, and the dignity of the human person would be futile.
Lou DiMasi, director of residence life and senior associate dean of students, reiterated the college’s policy on bias incidents and warned students about the possibility of suspension or dismissal. “We will do it. We have done it.”
Doug Babcock, director of public safety, stated that his office has been in contact with the Colchester Police Department and with federal agencies. Officers were proactive about removing the stickers on Sunday night into Monday morning wherever they were reported. Babcock speculated that the similar incidents at UVM and Champlain College suggest perpetrators from outside of the student body. “That would be the best thing that we could hope for; that our community members, our people here, understand and have nothing to do with this.” Still, the investigation is ongoing, and Babcock assured students that “we will get every possible answer that we can.”
“We stand by our commitments to stand by people of all backgrounds, all identities,” Babcock said about the Public Safety Office’s mission, assuring students that they can reach out for help with any situation. “Everybody on this campus that’s a member of our community, we support. We are here for your safety.”