GENESEO – While the state investigation continues into a spraypainted swastika and the word ‘Trump’ in a residence hall, SUNY Geneseo President Denise Battles called the entire campus together for speakers to ‘reaffirm college values.’
About 500 students and staff packed the College Union Ballroom. Speakers were: Michael Baranowski, Student Association President; Adrienne Collier, Assistant to the President for Diversity and Equity and Director of Affirmative Action and Chair of the College’s Commission on Diversity and Community, Dr. Paul Schacht, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Matt Cook, student and Geneseo Village Board member; and Robert Bonfiglio, Vice President for Student and Campus Life.
“Variety energizes us and makes us strong,” said Dr. Schacht. “The encounter with it challenges our assumptions, takes us out of ourselves, and helps accomplish a central purpose of liberal education. To liberate the mind from the oppressive constraints of parochialism and prejudice. […] Whatever your race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or ability, you are a member of this community of searchers. You belong here. You should expect to feel safe in this community.
‘To say that as a public liberal arts college we respect difference of opinion and that we want to see a diversity of ideas flourish here is not to say that we have no opinions or ideas of our own,”said Schacht. “By law, all members of our community have the same speech rights here that they enjoy under the Constitution. But the College, too, can speak.
‘While all members of a community are entitled to choose their own values, a college too gets to choose values. We have chosen to value diversity, equity, and inclusion. That choice means something. It means that we stand squarely, unequivocally and publicly opposed to racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, zenophobia, ableism, and other forms of hatred or intolerance. It means that we dedicate ourselves to repairing inequities produced by a long national history of unequal treatment for particular groups under the law and in society at large. It means that we commit ourselves as an institution to the work of building and sustaining a sense of community in spite of our differences.”
Cook reminded the audience of the campus response to the tragic events of Jan. 17, 2016 and how the campus was brought together.
“305 days have passed since the lives of Matthew Hutchinson and Kelsey Anise were tragically cut short,” said Cook. “January 17, 2016 is a date that is permanently imprinted in the minds of our students and staff and not one that will be forgotten by anyone who follows our footsteps in Geneseo’s hallowed halls. What has been forgotten, however, is the unity and strength that every single individual on this campus experienced in the aftermath of this tragedy. […] OneKnight has become a unifying phrase on this campus showing that our love for diversity and inclusion continues to unify us as one. It means that the faces you walk past every day are ones that you can go up to at any time and make an instant bond for life because that is what Kelsey and Matt would have wanted. It is a bond that endears me to each and every one of you, making us all a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Bonfiglio acknowledged that the college community is not perfect but said that it can still improve and learn. He applied a lyric from the late Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’ to describe the College’s imperfections.
“I know that we’re a community that tries to learn from each other, I know I’ve learned so much from our students just as I’ve tried to impart a little bit of what I know. I know we strive to look after each other and I know we strive to stand up for each other. I also know this community is not perfect. How could it be? Not one of us is perfect. There’s no such thing as a perfect community. But like each of us our imperfect community has the capacity to grow, to evolve, to be better. Learning begins, growth begins, understanding begins when we face our shortcomings head-on and we harness the power inherent in this community to build a stronger community. […] There’s a line in ‘Anthem’ that goes like this: ‘There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’ The recent election exposed a crack in our nation and recent events here on our campus have exposed a crack in our community. It’s frightening to think of such a fissure. […] But this is Geneseo, there are no ‘others’ here. We are not in opposition to each other. I know deep in my heart that the actions that are seeming to attempt to break us apart will ultimately lead to the light. […] The sliver of light that has been revealed this week can guide us. Let’s walk in that light together. Let’s walk on that path to an awakened, powerful, better, more compassionate, more hospitable, more just Geneseo.”
SUNY Geneseo tweeted a thank you to those who attended.
“Thank you all for coming out and showing your support at the Campus Convening today!” tweeted @SUNYGeneseo. “Together we will build community! #community #oneknight”