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September 17-19, 2017
Racist, sexist and hate speech language was posted on a message board in one of the residence halls on campus over the course of three days. A photograph of one of the messages was posted on social media at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 19. When incidents were reported by the student, Public Safety, Residential Life, and Student Life staff responded and the university’s Office of Non-Discrimination and the Westfield State University Police Department began investigating the incidents.
September 19, 2017
Westfield State University President Ramon Torrecilha issued a campus-wide message via email at 9:42 p.m., emphasizing that the acts were unacceptable, would not be tolerated and that those found responsible would be held accountable.
Public Safety staff and Residential Life staffing was increased. All staff were asked to be vigilant.
The students victimized and others impacted were offered counseling and additional support.
September 20, 2017
At 6:30 a.m., the residents of residence hall in which the acts occurred were awoken to gather outside where they were addressed directly by President Torrecilha and Vice President for Student Life Carlton Pickron. Their message encouraged those committing the acts or those with information to come forward and underscored that these acts, in strong contrast with the university’s mission and values, would not be tolerated. Residents were asked to share any information that they had through several channels, including the opportunity to remain anonymous through the university’s Silent Witness link online.
At 8:30 a.m., members of the university’s Emergency Response Team assembled to support a coordinated response and the Emergency Operation Center was activated.
A statement from President Torrecilha was issued to the media.
President Torrecilha, Dean of Students Susan LaMontagne and other administrators met with the Student Government Association Executive Board to provide updates and listen.
At 2:18 p.m., President Torrecilha issued a second campus-wide email, summarizing his address to the resident students and providing information on reporting and support resources available.
At 7 p.m., the Student Government Association held a special meeting, which was well attended by SGA members, students of color, President Torrecilha, administrators, faculty and staff to discuss the acts that had taken place.
A student-led gathering took place at 9 p.m. on the Campus Green. Students, administrators, faculty, staff and others who attended wore black in support of students of color. Speakers consisted of students, alumni, faculty, staff, President Torrecilha and community members concerned about the incidents.
Following the public dialogue involving the incidents, additional racist, sexist, and homophobic incidents were reported and additional investigations began.
September 21, 2017
President Torrecilha emailed faculty at 8 a.m. requesting they bring their 9:45 a.m. classes of students to the Campus Green for a University Assembly in lieu of teaching courses for that period. At 9:30 a.m. staff and students were emailed an invitation to take part in the University Assembly on the Campus Green.
At 9:45 a.m., a large crowd of students, faculty, and staff gathered for the Assembly. Following remarks from President Torrecilha, students, faculty and staff addressed the crowd in an open mic format, sharing their thoughts on the racist, sexist and hate speech incidents that had taken place. President Torrecilha announced a “Day of Acknowledgement and Listening” that would take place on campus on Friday, Sept. 22.
At 2:32 p.m., a statement from the Student Government Association Executive Board was issued through a campus-wide email, calling for unity in the wake of the incidents.
At 4:40 p.m., President Torrecilha issued a third campus-wide email, thanking those that attended at the morning University Assembly for their courage and support, addressing that additional incidents had taken place, and announcing the logistics of the Sept. 22 “Day of Acknowledgement and Listening.”
September 22, 2017
Two “Acknowledgement and Listening” sessions were held—the 10 a.m. to Noon session was open to the full campus community, while the 1 to 3 p.m. session was reserved for only students, allowing their own space and time to share their thoughts and needs with President Torrecilha and other university administrators. Feedback and information gathered at both sessions will be instrumental in developing an action plan to begin to heal as a community and improve the university’s efforts to shift the culture.
Through the Emergency Response Team, plans were put in place in the areas of Campus Counseling, Residential Life, and Human Resources to provide further expanded services and resources needed for all affected and impacted individuals and groups on campus. A 24-hour coverage plan was put in place for the Emergency Operation Center to remain live throughout the weekend to ensure heightened security and vigilance.
September 22-24, 2017
Additional staffing was provided in all residence halls to monitor, patrol, and assist the Residential Life staff with their vigilance.
The Emergency Response Team maintained and staffed the Emergency Operation Center around-the-clock throughout the weekend to ensure preparedness for any additional incidents or concerns.