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Campus e-mail focuses on race

December 4, 2001

Race continues to be the hot topic of conversation at Colgate University in Hamilton, where students staged a sit-in last week at the university's administration building to protest what they described as racism and racial insensitivity on campus.

Several administrators and groups have since weighed in on the topic of racism and on how the student protesters conducted themselves.

Many have expressed their views by sending campuswide e-mail messages. Jane Pinchin, Colgate's interim president, sent an e-mail message Nov. 27, the day after the protest, that commented on the sit-in.

"Yesterday's meeting was a fruitful discussion of concerns that matter to us all," Pinchin wrote.

She attached a letter sent by John F. Dovidio, interim provost and dean of the faculty, to four students on Nov. 8. The letter addresses a meeting between administrators and the four students, at which the students brought up several concerns.

One issue was an e-mail message from a Colgate faculty member that ended up being widely distributed on campus. In the message, associate professor of political science Barry Shain wrote that minority students on campus receive an inferior education because they are attracted to "exotic" courses that are not intellectually rigorous.

In response to the meeting with the four students, Dovidio wrote, in part:

"As we discussed, although President Pinchin and I fully support academic freedom and the freedom of faculty to express their personal opinions, we emphasize that the views of individual faculty members do not represent the views, positions and policies of the institution.

"President Pinchin and I have listened carefully to your concerns, and we assure you that Colgate is firmly committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of race, have fair access to all university programs and are treated in a nondiscriminatory way. We will continue to explore any allegations of bias against students, faculty or staff. ...

"We greatly value the community of color at Colgate, and we are committed to providing the best education possible to all of our students. We are willing to work with you further to understand the issues at hand more fully and to determine appropriate courses of action. ..."


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