Keene State survey finds prejudice widespread among its faculty, students

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KEENE, N.H. (AP) – A survey of faculty and students at Keene State University has uncovered many stories of bias and harassment on campus.

The 5,200 student body is 90 percent white. Last fall, several focus groups were formed to discuss issues of prejudice. A total of 52 people, including professors, minority students, men, women and athletes, participated.

According to a recent report on those forums, casual use of racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic language is widespread. Some women spoke of physical assaults, including being touched on their breast and buttocks against their will.

One woman said she was followed by several men yelling “Go back to India, bitch!”

President Helen F. Giles-Gee, who arrived in July, is among the officials who were surprised by the report.

“There was a feeling of shock for some that this doesn’t describe our college, and I had the same feeling,” Giles-Gee said. “Even if only one person was harassed, we need to do something to help that one person.”

Stephen Wessler, director of the Portland, Maine-based Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, led the assessment.

“While there are certainly things in there that are disturbing, it doesn’t reflect that Keene has anything different from other campuses,” he said. “If anything, it reflects well on Keene that it’s made the commitment to address these issues. That doesn’t always happen.”

Senior campus officials have been meeting with staff and student groups since the report was released and held a campus-wide forum on the report last week. The college is planning a presentation on diversity to incoming students and is integrating diversity into the curriculum.

Workshops for faculty and staff also are being discussed, college spokesman Michael J. Matros said.



Information from: The Keene Sentinel, http://www.keenesentinel.com

AP-ES-04-08-06 1133EDT

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