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University panel educates campus, community on dealing with diversity issues

Lisa+Hanasono+speaks+about+social+media+and+diversity+issues+Tuesday+evening+in+Olscamp+during+the+second+panel+discussion+for+the+Not+In+Our+Town+campaign.

Lisa Hanasono speaks about social media and diversity issues Tuesday evening in Olscamp during the second panel discussion for the Not In Our Town campaign.

Tuesday night’s second Not In Our Town event helped shed light on what may happen to the students involved in the posting of racially charged tweets, while also continuing to educate faculty, staff and community members on how to deal with issues of diversity.

A panel of four faculty members fielded questions from the crowd of more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in Olscamp. Panelists echoed statements made at the campaign’s first event as to why something like Not In Our Town is necessary.

“We have to educate ourselves about the different kinds of oppression if we’re going to make this coalition work,” said panelist Dalton Jones, assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies Department, during the question and answer session.

Also sitting on the panel with Jones were Lisa Hanasono, assistant professor in Communications, Arpan Yagnik, graduate assistant in the school of media and communications and Christina Lunceford, an assistant professor in Higher Education. Moderating the panel was Patty Helyer, student assistance and advocacy specialist in the Counseling Center.

Jill Carr, dean of students and vice president of Student Affairs, addressed the crowd on the investigation of the three students who tweeted racially charged messages.

Following the charges, these three are subject to an investigation by the University in accordance with the student code of conduct. A committee hearing will decide the repercussions.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. There will be sanctions and that could mean anything from a warning all the way up to an expulsion,” Carr said. “It just depends on past history.”

The results of the investigation will not be public, as the outcome is protected by a federal privacy law.

“If we did that, we would be violating the students’ rights,” Carr said.

Carr expressed confidence in how the process has gone so far.

“The University does hold students accountable for this kind of behavior,” she said. “There will be accountability.”

The Not In Our Town campaign was formed as a way to counter numerous discriminatory acts that have occurred in the Bowling Green area this past year, specifically the recent racially charged tweets.

When black students gathered at a local bar early in April, multiple other students tweeted messages directed toward the black community, sparking an immediate response from the Black Student Union.

The incident prompted a response from the University the next day and other organizations also started taking an interest in how to prevent such an event from occurring again.

“Bowling Green has some soul searching to do,” Jones said. “We’ve come a long way, yes, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

While the answers to why these incidents occurred this past year may seem unclear, the University hopes to answer them by continuing Not In Our Town through next fall.

“One of the ugly questions that we as a community have to start thinking about and answering is ‘why is this happening?’” Hanasono said.

Also in attendance were University President Mary Ellen Mazey and a number of other University Administrators. Mazey spoke about why it’s important for students, faculty and members of the community to come together for such a campaign.

“It’s so important that we all work together,” Mazey said. “It may not just be a couple meetings, but continuous meetings.”

Later on in the evening, members of the panel, such as Yagnik, also participated in a session where attendees could voice their opinions and ideas for how to fight hate through Not In Our Town.

“It is about you, it is about me, it is about everyone coming together and saying the four magic words,” Yagnik said. “Not In Our Town.”

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