by Annika Bjornson | Staff Writer
Hate crimes recently impacted Whitworth and Gonzaga’s campuses with attacks on people of color via social media threats and Zoom bombings.
On Nov. 6, a Whitworth Advisory email announced that Campus Security and the Threat Assessment Team were “monitoring reports of social media postings which threaten violence against people of color, specifically African American men.” These messages were sent throughout Spokane as a voter suppression tactic and for intimidation purposes.
According to Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Lorna Hernandez Jarvis, while it was initially believed that the NAACP had issued warnings of possible white supremacist actions, they claimed not to have done so. However, they wrote that the community should exercise caution during post-election controversy regardless.
The report that there were threats later were deemed not credible, but Whitworth continued to communicate with the local sheriff’s office and there have been increased sheriff and security patrols. Students were advised to take extra precaution when leaving campus. The email stated that “the safety of our community is our highest priority, and we are committed to doing everything we can to maintain a safe environment.”
Two days later, Gonzaga’s administration sent out a “Message of Solidarity with our Black Students in Light of Today’s Hate Crime.” During an afternoon Gonzaga Black Student Union (BSU) Zoom meeting, anonymous individuals logged on using alias identities and directed homophobic and racist slurs against the BSU students. The administration said they would commit to meeting with BSU students to discuss necessary immediate support and work on ways the university can address racism.
“While Gonzaga is striving to do better and be better for all underrepresented students, we know that words are not enough and change does not happen fast enough,” the email said. “Our efforts to create and sustain a more equitable and inclusive campus community require constant vigilance and renewal of commitment.”
Jarvis warns that these are not isolated incidents. This summer, the West Central neighborhood was targeted with a campaign of racist flyers. She says she advises that students remain aware, stay informed and be vigilant of their surroundings. However, she also hopes not to spread alarm.
“Because there’s so much tension in our community right now through the political reality we are experiencing, the best thing we can do is truly reflect our Christian identity as an institution. What is the Christian way to address our differences?”
Whitworth sophomore Dollar Ganu serves as the public relations representative for Whitworth’s BSU. She said that Whitworth has responded poorly to these recent incidents and has failed to acknowledge the hate crimes at Gonzaga.
In suggesting a proper response to hate crimes, Ganu questioned the idea that minority groups should be expected to find the solution.
“How can this university support students who are the minority? How can the white students at this school challenge themselves to backtrack on their racial and prejudice views so that students of color aren’t uncomfortable every day in every environment? It’s quite silly to expect the minority students to be the one that pushes steps to how they can be treated better by other students.”
Ganu added advice for students who wish to support those affected by the threats.
“I would suggest that Allies step up and do what you believe is right,” she said. “Not every day does the oppressed group have to make an outline message of what allies can do because then their actions won’t seem genuine. Check in with your friends of color. We all are battling so much but imagine not receiving the same support just because of your color.”
For a safe ride or escort, Whitworth community members can call security at (509) 777-4444. To inquire about BSU, contact email@example.com, and to learn more about Whitworth’s diversity initiatives and commitments, see the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion webpage.