Hofstra University’s Honors College perpetuates a culture of toxic silence and complicity. There is no such thing as accountability. There are no consequences when a professor or a dean crosses the line. Their actions are drowned out by feel-good emails and “open conversations” that ultimately do nothing but band-aid the problem until people (hopefully) forget about it.
We haven’t forgotten.
We remember every time a dean has gone on stage during Culture & Expression (C&E) and used what she calls her “black voice,” a racist caricature of an accent, to read works by black authors. We remember because she’s still a dean. We remember because nothing has ever been done about it. We remember because we tell each other about how she’s never been held accountable for anything she’s said, or any of the various times she’s promised to change and never has.
I had already heard about how the Honors College refuses to acknowledge the behavior of this dean, or of any professor, before I set foot in my first honors class. Exhausted, battle-worn former C&E students recounted stories of racism and sexism on stage, and how nothing ever changes, even when students have hours of meetings with deans that promise to do something and then don’t.
We remember because we’re told all these stories and more. I was told about the nightmare that is the freshman honors college experience by those that came before me, and I will tell those that follow me. An email making empty promises means nothing when, in addition to every single story that was handed down to me, I will leave this year with too many stories of my own. Every single story has a common theme: The Honors College does not change. The Honors College does not care. If they cared, they would do something. If they cared, people would be held accountable for their actions.
Instead, they’re excused from meetings that are only being held because students refused to be quiet when they were grossly violated by a professor during C&E. The professor in question is being protected by the Honors College; an official complaint filed through Hofstra was returned with a shrug and a, “This isn’t our problem, try the Honors College.” The complaint was effectively killed.
The silence surrounding the toxicity of the Honors College is not the fault of the students. We’re not the ones ignoring complaints. We’re not the ones that refuse to acknowledge the blatant and repeated racism of a dean that happens on stage in front of hundreds, every year.
The question I have for the Honors College is this: What will be enough?
Students going to the Honors College office in groups to bring a problem to the attention of the deans isn’t enough because we’ve done that, and nothing has happened. Students begging for justice, or even the slightest amount of respect, isn’t enough either.
It isn’t enough that students in the Honors College continue to talk about and try to address its problems. It isn’t enough to warn incoming freshman to be careful of this professor and that professor. It isn’t enough to have “open conversations” that skirt around the fact that the professor that made the conversation necessary was excused from the conversation.
So what will be enough? When will someone finally be held accountable? When will the silence break?
Dear Honors College: Do something.