CT school investigates potentially insensitive comment toward Muslim student

Central Connecticut State University is in a tizzy over a Muslim student’s claim that she may have been the target of an insensitive comment in a campus parking garage.

The unidentified student reported the incident to a professor Tuesday, WTNH reports, and university President Jack Miller responded Wednesday with an email to the campus community acknowledging the severity of the allegation and expressing the school’s commitment to provide a “welcoming and supportive” environment.

“While the CCSU Police and the Office of Diversity and Equity continue to work with one of our students who reported yesterday that she, as a Muslim, was verbally harassed, I want to say clearly that such harassment is totally unacceptable and contrary to everything that we as a university stand for,” Miller writes. “At a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric has become so loud and pernicious in our country, we should especially embrace our Muslim colleagues and students and let them know that they are safe, welcome, and valued here.”

CCSU spokesman Mark McLaughlin told the Hartford Courant that the campus-wide reaction was triggered after the professor who received the student’s report sent an email to other faculty members recounting the student’s claim that she overheard two strangers make a comment that may have been intended derogatorily.

McLaughlin explained that the student—who was wearing a traditional head covering at the time—was walking through an on-campus parking garage on her way to night class last month when two young men whom she did not recognize appeared to refer to her as a “killer.”

Although most students have already left campus for Christmas break, McLaughlin said the university is planning to hold a public forum to discuss the issue once classes resume. In the meantime, the school is also encouraging anyone who experiences or witnesses harassment report it to campus police, the Office of Diversity and Equity, or the office of Student Affairs.

Several students who were interviewed by WTNH indicated that they support the administration’s proactive response, though some felt it could have gone even further.

“I think that something should be done,” Abriana Ciasullo told WTNH. “I think that there should be a zero tolerance policy for any sort of harassment whether it be racist, sexist, [or] any sort of harassment.”

Ciasullo advocated advertising the resource and support groups currently available to minority students, but Subrina Nelson went a step further by suggesting that those resources should be expanded.

“I think there needs to be more awareness on one’s culture,” she opined. “Bringing in these initiatives they will shed more light on the feelings of individuals, but I feel like it is not a change that’s going to happen overnight.”

She also noted, however, that “in my four years of attending here I have personally never witnessed or heard any backlash as far as different ethnic groups or races,” and asserted her belief that “we are tolerant as a school.”

“It’s just disappointing that we even have to have emails like that go out,” Spencer Root concurred. “I mean, she is just a student like all the rest of us trying to get an education like the rest of us and it is something she shouldn’t have to worry about.”

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