Derogatory Facebook message prompts reaction

By Paul Szaniawski

For the second time in two weeks the Rider community been shaken by bigotry. After a racial slur was written on multiple doors in a residence hall last week, demeaning comments marked the Facebook.com “wall” of a Latin American Student Organization (LASO) member on Tuesday.

Freshman Amy Lapaix, public relations chair of LASO, thought a post on her wall was prejudiced and targeted people of Hispanic ethnicity. The University confirmed that junior Emily Howell posted the offensive comments.

“You must be part of the EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) or something because you’re obnoxious and your spelling and grammar suck,” an excerpt of Howell’s post read. “Get lost and stop writing about your dumb Hispanic s—…..Maybe you could go pick some vegetables or make some salsa for your event.”

The wall post came after Howell became upset because Lapaix posted information about an upcoming LASO event on her wall. The public relations chair would post event details on her friends’ Facebook walls.

An emergency meeting to address bigotry on campus was called on Wednesday by University President Mordechai Rozanski with student leaders, administrators, and student representatives of various organizations including Black Student Union, LASO and other clubs. An array of solutions was discussed to solve “messages of polarization” that divide the University, according to Don Brown, director of Multicultural Affairs and Community Service.

“It just won’t go away and we need to respond to it as quickly and effectively as we can,” Brown said.

Howell claimed that her comments were not meant to be prejudice because she didn’t know who Lapaix was or of her race, according to a comment she posted on a group’s message board yesterday afternoon.

“The fact that I got frustrated with Amy has nothing to do with Amy’s race,” Howell wrote. “I never insulted her heritage.”

Although Howell maintained her words weren’t ethnically motivated, her demeaning comment still struck a cord with students.

“I had countless emotions running through my head,” said President of LASO Karen Lakomy. “I am furious and upset about this situation among other things.”

Brown said the comment hurt the entire campus, not just minorities.

Lapaix filed a harassment complaint against Howell with the Lawrence Township Police Department. No other complaints were filed. Police said they have begun investigating the “possible bias incident.” Howell has not been charged with anything, police said.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said the University may take their own action against Howell. The incident is already in the judicial process and it is moving forward, he said.

Campbell will be a part of a committee with other administrators and students to incorporate long-term solutions to hateful words on both campuses.

“This is only good in the fact that it will bring us closer as a campus,” Lakomy said.

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