Hodge: Discrimination in roommate situations needs to be addressed

Jayla Hodge

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

A student from the University of Hartford, Brianna Brochu, was recently expelled and arrested on the charges of criminal mischief and felony bigotry for hate acts against her roommate, Chennel Rowe. Brochu tempered with her roommate’s belongings, poisoning her putting body fluids in her belongings and food.

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Brochu documented it all on Instagram referring to Rowe, a black woman, as “getting ride of Jamaican Barbie.”The story spread across the nation, showing a trend in racism and acts of hate on college campuses. 

While college campuses are becoming more diverse environments, across the country there has been a rise in bias motivated incidents. Colorado State University’s own campus has seen its share of these kinds of incidents, particularly this school year.

Blatant discrimination and bias motivated incidents are not new or uncommon on predominantly white campus like CSU.

The problem is simple. Many young people are leaving home for the first time, and most are leaving communities with similar identities as them. They are being thrown together with other ethnic groups and identities they may be unfamiliar with.

man stands with people in background
Elijah Thomas, a sophomore sociology major at Colorado State University, waits outside the North Ballroom to have a private conversation with Tony Frank. Thomas found a noose made out of crepe paper dangling from the stairs in front his dorm floors’ entrance. (Seth Bodine | Collegian)

According to a study done by UCLA, minority students at schools with less diversity experience more incidents of stereotyping and discrimination. Correspondingly, reports of discrimination occur much less often at schools where the student body is more ethnically diverse.

I had my own experiences with prejudice and racial bias living in the dorms my freshman year. I had a roommate who made living conditions extremely uncomfortable and isolated me through her passive aggressive behavior and mean rumors. It got so extreme, it was eventually brought to the attention of the Resident Assistant.

While the school took measures to move her out and separate us, it was never addressed that they underlining reason of her passive aggression was simply that my race and cultural differences made her uncomfortable.

This is the new form of racism.  The cloaked dislike and harmful stereotyping of people different then ourselves.

Another incident involved me reporting offensive and racist remarks to my RA made by a white male on my floor.  The incident became borderline violent when he found out I reported his use of racial slurs. He forcibly entered my dorm shouting and furious. I was not only terrified, but had to scream multiple times before he left. This incident was again brought to the attention of the dorm supervisors, but the school took no further actions to separate us.

Responding to marginalized students with statements like, “not everything is about race” is a privileged and dangerous way of thinking. It digresses the seriousness of these incidents.

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I am not the only marginalized identity going through these regressive experiences on this campus.

Campus racial climates have been linked to academic success of of both marginalized and non-marginalized students. The same study also found that the psychological attitudes between and among groups influences how well students of color perform and whether they stay on track towards graduation.

The University needs to do more to protect and welcome marginalized identities. While CSU definitely needs to improve this aspects, the fault also falls on the white and dominate identifying students on this campus.

People of majority identities don’t participate enough in conversations around racism, sexism,homophobia, antisemitism and other forms of oppression. It makes them uncomfortable.

Be avoiding these necessary but  ‘uncomfortable’ conversations around oppression, predominate identities are actually using their  privilege to suppress  and silence marginalized people.  While many do not consider themselves racist, sexist, or homophobic they are upholding those convictions.

At the meeting with Tony Frank this October,  several black students suggested implementing programs, similar to the required online alcohol and consent courses taken by freshmen moving into the dorms, around diversity and cultural awareness. This can help with elliminating bias and increasing the experiences of marginalized students in the dorms. 

Although many students feel like they have heard these comments and sentiments repeatedly, many haven’t gained awareness of how much these incidents and and messages are experienced by the smaller communities on this campus.  Racism harms everyone but, unlike the majority of student on this campus, students of color cannot ignore it.

Jayla Hodge can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @Jaylahodge.