Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU: Swallow your Pride

Apparently, spitting on students is not a punishable offense at FAU… as long as you apologize afterward.

On the evening of Oct. 30, shortly before a lecture by controversial speaker Daniel Pipes, students gathered to silently protest outside the Live Oak Pavilion, located behind the Student Union on the Boca campus. Often perceived as anti-Muslim, Pipes was invited to lecture on “Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy.”

More than a dozen students showed their displeasure with Pipes’ sentiments in the form of protest signs which said things like “Spread Love, Not Hate,” “No to Racism, No to Xenophobic Speech,” and “Guilty ‘Cause I’m Muslim?” One of the protesters was a young Muslim woman named Sana Akhtar. As she was passing out flyers, an unidentified FAU employee wearing a staff shirt told her to “go back to [her] country” and spit on her.

The young Muslim woman chose not to press charges after the employee later apologized. “All I want is for the university to condemn her actions, vocalize how immoral what she did was, and [say] that this kind of sick behavior is not accepted or tolerable on campus,” Akhtar later wrote on a Facebook group message board. FAU students on Facebook, an online social networking Web site, created the group to demonstrate the outrage toward the university’s lack of response. The group now has over 480 student members and links to a petition demanding a more forceful statement from FAU.

Unfortunately, the administration has done little to satisfy Akhtar’s reasonable requests or to assure students of their right to free speech. Its feeble response to the spitting incident has shown its insufficient concern, particularly in comparison to a university which dealt with a series of similar events last month.

At George Washington University (GWU), a group of anonymous students posted hundreds of flyers around campus with a satirical promotion of an actual upcoming event, “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.” The flyers featured the heading, “Hate Muslims? So do we!” and an image of a “typical Muslim” with “lasers in [his] eyes” and a “suicide vest.”

According to the student newspaper, the GW Hatchet, GWU responded immediately. By midafternoon, “the Student Activities Center, Student Judicial Services, the University Police Department, and GW Housing [were] all investigating the matter.” At 6 p.m. University President Steven Napp issued an e-mail to the GW community, which directly addressed student concerns.

“There is no place for expressions of hatred on our campus,” Napp said, showing decisive integrity. “We do not condone, and we will not tolerate … [activities] that vilify any religious, ethnic or racial group.”

Our own president, Frank Brogan, has made no such statement and seems unwilling to face the incident. Akhtar and other

students sought to meet with him on Nov. 16, but the appointment was abruptly canceled.

“Yeah, they canceled at the last minute. We’re not going to reschedule. We’re going to take it over Brogan’s head,” said FAU student activist Emmanuel Lopez.

Akhtar, accompanied by two other protesters, had already met with administrative officials on Nov. 7 and requested the university release an official statement condemning the employee’s conduct and create “cultural tolerance training” for employees. No commitments were made.

At this point, the administration could have publicly identified the employee and reprimanded her. It could have made a public statement denouncing the behavior of the employee and any other like behavior. The administration could have terminated her employment. It could have met or have promised to meet the students’ requests. Or, at the least, administrative officials could have made a public apology. The administration took none of these actions. In reality, it merely denied responsibility while blaming everyone else.

“The employee was not acting in an official capacity, and there were no charges filed,” said university spokeswoman Kristine McGrath. “She wasn’t actually working at the time.”

This information might be helpful if it mattered whether the employee was getting paid to spit on students. No students have suggested that “spit on Muslim protesters” was in the job description. It’s wrong regardless, and at the very least, the administration can take responsibility and deal with the situation directly and fairly. Unfortunately, the administration hasn’t.

Instead, it holds everyone else accountable. A poorly circulated statement released by the university three days after the incident declared, “Members of the public attending [FAU] events are responsible for conducting themselves in an appropriate manner.”

Although FAU’s Media Relations Web site claims the university takes “a proactive role in disseminating news,” with the purpose of “[ensuring] that FAU’s institutional policies, positions and responses are accurately and effectively communicated,” FAU’s stance on this issue remains unclear at best, and at worst, officials are completely aloof.

The other lame thing the administration has managed to do is conduct an “internal review” through Student Affairs, during which vague “differing accounts regarding the reported intensity of the exchange” occurred. Unfortunately, the victim’s own account was not included in the review, according to Akhtar. For not swallowing its pride, the administration has ended up gagging on it.

“I would like the university to apologize for releasing the first statement they released after their so-called investigation that did not include my accounts on the incident,” Akhtar said in her Facebook statement, which also explained why she had chosen not to press charges.

I’d like the university to apologize and take responsibility, too, but FAU has shown that it is more interested in its reputation than in doing what is moral. Sadly, the people in charge don’t seem to understand that respectable folks like Akhtar and GWU’s administration make the FAU administration’s hands-off approach look that much worse. So go ahead, drag your own names through the mud.

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