The university continues efforts to foster a more respectful and inclusive community in response to recent events. More

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#WestfieldStateIKnow

Timeline and Response

Click here to view information on the chronology of racist, sexist and hate speech acts and Westfield State University’s response.



Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017

Dear Campus Community:

I am writing to update you on our progress since the discovery of several hateful messages on campus over the last three weeks.
 
First, let me express how proud I am of our campus community for standing up to bigotry and racism and declaring loudly, and proudly, that we will not allow these cowardly, hateful acts to create division and dissention on our campus; that we have redoubled our efforts at creating a more inclusive campus.  The best thing we can do to respond to messages of hate is to demonstrate as a community that we will not be bullied and will not abandon our core belief in the importance of diverse and welcoming community.
 
We are undertaking both immediate and longer-term actions to respond to the specific incidents and to create the kind of culture change that will provide no shelter for racism on our campus in the future.
 
Regarding the recent acts, our Office of Nondiscrimination Compliance and Department of Public Safety, aided by the Massachusetts State Police, continues its active investigation.  We are hopeful that those responsible will be brought to justice, and we continue to encourage anyone with information that may be helpful to the investigation to report it to the Department of Public Safety.  This can be done anonymously by clicking on this link.
 
We have also created a cross-divisional Bias Incident Response Team that is charged with responding to and coordinating support for those who are targets of bias incidents and we are exploring a series of longer-term security upgrades, including the installation of strategically placed cameras in common areas, for the entire campus.  We know that students must feel safe and protected on campus.
 
As an academic institution, we value the role that education plays in eliminating prejudices.  Our Academic Affairs division will continue its work of hosting Higher Ed/Higher Ground and Diversity Across the Curriculum programming that specifically addresses issues of race and supports the efforts of faculty integration of issues of diversity in the classroom.  Additionally, Residential Life staff and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will expand their efforts to offer targeted programming in the spaces where students live and gather as a community. 
 
I have had discussions with both the leadership of the Springfield NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of New England about combating racism on campus.  The Office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has also been in touch to provide support and resources. 
 
My office will be engaging an outside expert with experience in creating culture change on campuses like ours.  Their task will be to create a well-thought-out action plan that permeates the campus – reaching classrooms, residence halls, athletic fields, stages, and laboratories.
Please continue to follow the timeline on our website for important updates.
 
Here at Westfield State, I am quite certain that what we struggle with today will make us stronger, more empathic, and a better institution tomorrow.
 
Sincerely,
 
Ramon S. Torrecilha, Ph.D.
President



Friday, Sept. 29, 2017

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Administration,

As proud alumni of Westfield State, we are disturbed and dismayed by the recent incidents of racism inflicted on students in their residence hall. There is no place for this or any form of bigotry on our campus. We commend the initial response of President Torrecilha and his administration in taking these incidents seriously. We expect that the individual(s) responsible, once found, will be permanently removed from our campus community.

We want Westfield State to be a place where ALL students feel welcome, safe and fully accepted. In speaking with many current and former students over the past week, we have come to understand that this is not always the case. This is not right and we must take action to initiate change.

An integral part of the university experience is to learn and grow personally, emotionally, philosophically and spiritually, shaping the core values of who we are as human beings. Clearly, there is work to be done to foster the acceptance of every individual.

We, as Westfield State alumni, are willing to work with the administration, students, faculty and staff to promote unity and support for ALL members of the Westfield State community. We will stand with our students as they hold the administration accountable for the words and actions they have committed to, so we can all live, work and learn together.

Sincerely,
Westfield State Alumni Association Executive Council 
 

Jim McGowan '92 President
Nancy Daly '90 Past President
Terrell Hill '92 Alumni Trustee
Eileen Rockwal '91 Foundation Board Representative
Liz Burgos '07

Justin Connolly '16
Evelyn Dina '16
Adrienne Francis '10
Scott Gowen '84 

Scott Liberman '90
Steven Mailloux '14
Brittany Moniz '14
Nicole Nalepa '10
Kelli Nielsen '04
Mike O’Rourke '73
Karin Perry Karey '85
Amy Platt '98

Cheryl Vieira '08 



Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 5:20 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

Westfield State University continues its thorough investigation into the incidents of racist, sexist, and hate speech that have taken place on campus over the last week. We remain vigilant on campus, with student safety being our highest priority, as we remain forthright that such acts have no place on our campus.

I am thankful for the outreach, coordination, and support the university has received from community groups, local legislators, the City of Westfield, and Massachusetts state agencies, offering their services when and if they are necessary. Accordingly, the Massachusetts State Police will coordinate efforts with the Westfield State University Department of Public Safety as the investigation moves forward.

Over the last week, I have spoken with representatives from the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, the Greater Springfield NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League of New England, all of whom have offered their counsel and support.

We thank all members of the campus community who have extended their time, energy and concern to stamp out hatred as a whole on campus. Despite this trying and sensitive time on campus, Westfield State University will become a stronger, more empathic institution as a result of what we have gone through together.

Meaningful culture change takes time, but I’m counting on all of us to play integral roles in improving our campus climate.

Although our work is far from done, I want to express my gratitude to the many members of our Westfield State community who have gone significantly above and beyond to support our students and each other during this very difficult time on campus.

I look forward to staying in touch and keeping you informed.

Thank you.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 4:40 p.m.

Dear Campus Community:

Thank you to all who attended today’s University Assembly on the Campus Green. It was encouraging to see such a large show of support. This intentional disruption to our normal schedules underscores the severity of incidents and our determination to face head-on racism, sexism, and hate speech.
 
I encourage those who weren’t able to attend to click here to get a sense of the sentiment of the event. I am proud of the students, faculty, and staff who showed courage by speaking up at this large gathering. Their remarks contained similar themes of outrage and disappointment given the recent incidents, but they also contained a powerful call for unity.
 
I know that many of us are discouraged by the uptick in racist, sexist, and homophobic incidents that have taken place since have worked to bring our opposition to such behaviors to light. It is important for us to remember that this is how oppression works. When there is an attempt to change the order, pushback will occur and that is what these incidents represent. Know that this does not shake our resolve to change the climate on our campus. We will continue to monitor events, increase the presence of public safety, pursue investigations and build our plan for moving forward.
 
Clearly, there is more work that needs to be done. Leveraging the momentum of today, I invite students, faculty, and staff to continue the conversation tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 22. This “Day of Acknowledgement and Listening” will consist of two listening sessions open to students—10 a.m. to Noon and 1 to 3 p.m.—in the Owl’s Nest in Ely Hall. We encourage faculty and staff to attend the morning session, so students have their own space in the afternoon.
 
These conversations will be integral as the university puts together a plan of action to better educate and sensitize the full campus community on the host of issues related to inclusivity. 
 
As a reminder, individuals with information regarding any of these incidents are encouraged to report through any of the following channels:

As we have heard and seen, these events have a deep emotional impact. Know that resources for emotional and spiritual support are available through the following:

Thank you.
 
Yours truly,  
Ramon S. Torrecilha
President


Thursday, Sept. 21 2:32 p.m.

Statement from the Student Government Association Executive Council

Dear Westfield State University Community:

On behalf of the Student Government Association Executive Council, we feel that it is imperative to send a message to our campus community regarding recent events and the current climate on campus. To begin, I need to once again state that Westfield State University does not condone the discrimination of any individual based on age, disability, sex, gender, race, national origin, religion, and familial status.

While the basis of recent meetings and assemblies surround the repeated racist attacks directed at students living in New Hall, it is crucial to understand that this is not by any means an isolated incident. Acts of racism, sexism and hate speech directed at members of our campus community happen frequently. Students have stated that they are comfortable being uncomfortable on this campus. That should not be tolerated at an institution that prides itself on inclusion.

We call on every member of our Westfield community to unite and act upon these repeated acts of injustice. Change will not take place until we take action with the goal being that no student at Westfield State University feels unwelcome or uncomfortable due to the color of their skin or what they believe in.

We can create a positive change and improve our campus climate but we must come together and stand united to do this. This is just the beginning. Every action we take from here on out will help to eradicate hate from our campus.

Listed below are resources for students who either have information about these events or need emotional/spiritual support during these difficult times.

#OwlsFightBack

2017/2018 SGA Executive Council

  • Brendan McKee, President
  • Arielyss Santiago, Vice President for Student Life
  • Jacob Lotter, Vice President for Academic Life
  • Marcus DiBacco, Vice President for Finance
  • Madeline Dexter, Vice President for Programming
  • Cameron Swan, Student Trustee
  • Karina Sallaway, Executive Secretary
  • Derek Estrella, Legislative Secretary

Sincerely,

Brendan McKee
President
Student Government Association
Ely Building 017
Westfield State University
(413) 572-5439


Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 9:45 a.m.

Remarks, as delivered, from President Ramon Torrecilha

University Assembly, Campus Green

As many of you are aware, over the past several days, two of our students were victimized by sexist and racist comments, including the n-word, written on the signs on her residence hall door.  Sadly, I report that early last evening, the n-word was written in marker on the wall of the elevator in Scanlon Hall.  These incidents are blatant, intentional acts of sexism, racism and hatred.  Despite a variety of efforts on our campus over the past year to engage our campus in a dialogue about racism including concerted efforts through the divisions of residential life and academic affairs and my own time spent listening to students, faculty and staff of color, these incidents persist on our campus. 

I spent time yesterday listening to students, faculty and staff discuss these recent incidents and their deep emotional response. While the university response may feel devoid of action, I want to remind you that there is an investigation taking place and if we are able to find the individual responsible, he or she will be expelled from the university.

At both the SGA meeting yesterday afternoon and the gathering at the globe last evening, I heard speakers note that acts of racism are not isolated to this campus.  This is true.  Racism, sexism, and homophobia are part of the world outside the borders of our campus, but this is no reason to accept these prejudices on our campus.  As is the case outside of Westfield State, these problems are complex and will not be solved easily or quickly.  Like most difficult projects, it will take determination, hard work and cooperation.

This event’s disruption in your regular Thursday schedule is intended to jump start this process. While I met with faculty staff and students yesterday and began to create an action plan, I still need to hear from you.  I want to be mindful of the next class period, so I invite you over the next twenty minutes, to come to the microphone and share your reflections with the community. 

*Open comments delivered by those attending assembly*

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with our campus community.  I know there are many of you in the crowd, and others who are not here right now, who would like to continue this dialogue and contribute to a plan for moving forward.  Our next step is to create another opportunity for you to be heard.  I will be holding a day of Listening and Acknowledgment tomorrow, Friday, September 22.  All faculty, staff and students are invited to attend a session from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Owl’s Nest.  Additionally, I invite students to attend a second session I will be holding just for them on Friday, from 1 to 3 p.m., also in the Owl’s Nest. 

I know some of you are cynical about the statements we issue and doubt the sincerity of my messages.  But I do wish that you could see what I see on this campus – what I saw yesterday.  Dedicated residence hall assistants and professional staff drained by the incredible amount of support they had provided their residents during the day; faculty, staff, and administrators who arrived on campus at 5:30 a.m. in the morning and didn’t leave until well after the rally at the Globe at 10 p.m.; public safety officers and ISOs who doubled their efforts on campus last night on short notice and most of all, the leadership of our students. I could not have been more proud of the students who gathered at the SGA forum last night and those gathered at the Globe. They are the best of who we are at Westfield State and we should not forget that we have much to be proud of on this campus. 


Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 2:18pm

Dear Campus Community:

At 6:30 a.m. today, I asked the Resident Assistants, Public Safety and Cabinet members to gather the residents of New Hall so that I could speak directly with them regarding the racist and sexist messages of harassment being left on the door of a student residing in their community.
 
I let the residents of New Hall know that this type of behavior would not be tolerated on our campus. I asked them to come forward with any information they may have regarding this incident.
 
As we conduct a thorough investigation of this hateful activity, please know that we have increased our security and have put our residence hall staff on alert to be vigilant.
 
Many of you may be aware that word of this incident has reached social media and mainstream media. We are monitoring the messages from our community. I am pleased that so many of the messages reflect one of our alumni who stated “WSU is better than this.”  I know that you all agree that as an institution, we have had a long history of being an inclusive and inviting community and we will continue to reinforce the fundamental value of diversity on our campus.
 
As I stated to our students at New Hall this morning, part of the college experience is developing empathy for others. We will continue on this mission, teaching our students that dignity and respect for all others is the core of a civil community.
 
Individuals with information regarding the incident are encouraged to report through any of the following channels:

Such events can have a deep emotional impact.  Please know that resources for emotional and spiritual support are available through the following:

 
Yours truly,
 
Ramon S. Torrecilha
President 


Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 9:42pm

Dear Campus Community :

It has been brought to my attention that discriminatory and highly offensive language has been posted on a message board outside of a student’s room in New Hall. I am strongly disturbed by the motivation to engage in such a hurtful act against another individual.

We are currently investigating this unacceptable behavior. This will not be tolerated and is in strong contrast with the values and mission of Westfield State University.

At Westfield State, we are an inclusive community. Staff and students alike are drawn to our welcoming and supportive culture. We are here to inspire, encourage and challenge each other in positive and healthy ways. Civil discourse is encouraged; acts intended to pain and intimidate others are not.

I urge us all to continue to celebrate our differences, not call them out in a divisive and hurtful manner. At a time when enough hurtful and careless messaging is on full display in our nation and world, let’s take solace in our compassionate and thoughtful community at Westfield State and celebrate the many powerful issues and passions that unite us.

Yours truly,

Ramon S. Torrecilha
President