I write to you with a heavy heart. I learned this morning that once again, Fordham students report that they were the targets of racial and sexual slurs from a fellow student at their off-campus housing late last night. I received this unwelcome news moments after informing you all of the University task force on diversity.
The incident is being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force as a possible bias crime, and if the accusations are substantiated, the student will face Fordham disciplinary proceedings in addition to whatever criminal charges are brought.
I cannot stress often enough nor forcefully enough that such actions damage the entire Fordham community, not just their intended targets. This hateful behavior frays the connections between us, and is of course disproportionately damaging to members of the community who may already feel vulnerable. It is the opposite of what we teach, the opposite of what we believe, and the opposite of what we should aspire to be.
The task force will begin its work almost immediately, and I pray that we will soon have robust recommendations for action to add to the numerous anti-bias efforts we are already making.
I must confess, finally, that I have no small misgivings about alerting you to this latest incident: I would much prefer that you continue to prepare for final exams without distraction, and that you could take a well-deserved Christmas break without having to consider such behavior. Furthermore, I fear that these messages may be handing a megaphone to those few among us afflicted with bigotry. With that in mind, we may reconsider how, or whether, such acts should be made public.
Today I believe it was important for you to know that we are aware of the incident and investigating it aggressively, and that we will take appropriate measures at the conclusion of the investigation.
This hateful act, in other words, will not go unanswered in the short term. It is my firm conviction that in the long term we will build a community of greater compassion, respect, and genuine affection.
Joseph M. McShane, SJ