Thursday, February 21, 2019

Trinity Students’ Racist Posts Go Viral



Over the summer, multiple incidents of racism committed by Trinity College students were captured and spread across different social media platforms, igniting a response of widespread backlash from fellow Trinity students. These incidents, all originally posted on Instagram, included the n-word, references to deportation, and the words “we’re American and we can fucking kill you.”

The incident involving the n-word arose when Trinity student Matt Bicknese ’20 posted a comment on a photo of fellow students that read “buncha fucking n*****s.” The photo was posted on the Barstool Trinity Instagram account, but has since been deleted; however, many Trinity students took screenshots of the comment prior to its removal, which have been shared across multiple social media platforms. According to the Trinity email maintenance database, Bicknese is not enrolled at Trinity this semester, although it is unknown if this is due to disciplinary reasons. Associate Dean of Students Robert Lukaskiewicz stated, “due to confidentiality regarding education records, I am unable to comment on the disciplinary record of any student at Trinity.”

Prior to this semester, Bicknese was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, as well as a member of the men’s lacrosse team. When asked to confirm if Bicknese was removed from A.D., current A.D. Chapter President Max Herman commented, “the individual in question was immediately placed on indefinite suspension from the fraternity pending further investigation by the College.” Herman added, “On behalf of myself and the fraternity, I would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to those who have been offended by these hurtful comments. This type of behavior is reprehensible and under no terms and in no circumstances do I, or our members, condone such derogatory speech.”

A second Instagram post involving Trinity students Liam Andrian ’20 and Anna Ward ’20 received criticism from fellow Trinity students for its reference to deportation and a comment that mentioned 

Ward being “bailed out of immigration” with regard to studying abroad. Andrian posted a photo of Ward and himself with the caption “enjoy your 4 month long deportation.” Ward commented on the post, “come bail me out of the immigration office plz.” The caption and comment have been deleted off of Andrian’s Instagram account, however, screenshots of the post, including Ward’s comment, have been circulated by Trinity students. Students expressed strong criticism, calling its references to immigration “racist” and “inappropriate.”

When asked about this incident, Ward stated “I am sorry for anyone I offended, but decline to comment further.” Additionally, Andrian, who at the end of the spring semester was elected Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President of Communications, has resigned from his SGA position. When asked to comment, Andrian stated, “I apologize to those I offended and have stepped down from SGA.” Current SGA President Kristina Miele says this decision was made prior to the beginning of the school year. Miele also added that “as the SGA, it is important that we are representative and respectful of all students at Trinity. One of SGA’s main goals this year is to improve the campus climate…the end goal is that every student knows that they can come to SGA with any issue or challenge and we will represent them by taking action.”

The third incident occurring this past summer involved a video posted on the Barstool Trinity Instagram account in which Trinity student Kendall Brown ’21 shouted into a drive-thru speaker “we’re American and we can fucking kill you.” The video shows a group of Trinity students outside of a McDonalds drive-thru without a car shouting into the speaker. Brown, identified by fellow Trinity students in the comments of the video, is seen shouting “okay, its fucking rude that you’re not taking our order, honestly we’re American and we can fucking kill you.” The video has been deleted off of Barstool Trinity’s Instagram account, however, the video was shared in a Facebook post which still exists. Brown did not respond to a request for comment on this incident.

The video referenced above can be found here.

While Trinity’s administration has yet to address any of these individual incidents publicly, College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney referred to them in her convocation speech on August 30. The President stated, “sometimes, community members make mistakes and say things that don’t represent our community values. Unfortunately, that happened this summer. And, as is increasingly the case, eruption in social media ensures that many know when an individual misbehaves…Hateful, hurtful speech has no place here. …I value free speech, but there are consequences for speech that harms individuals or espouses hate, and we hold individuals accountable for their actions.”

Additionally, Trinity’s new Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Anita Davis, who started just last week stated, “from the little of what I have heard, Trinity is a microcosm of what is happening in our larger society. …what I hope will be different is that we will identify ways to be responsive to each other that are much more productive and embracing of different people.” When asked about Trinity’s administrative response to these incidents, Davis stated, “there is consideration around some type of response team that will be educative and design processes to deal with these [types of incidents]. …there is nothing that can take the place of student agency, but I recognize that part of our role is to do something when something happens.”

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