Cinnamon Burton had just finished doing her laundry in the Laguna 2 dormitory last Friday. She had no idea that upon returning to her dorm, she would see that someone had scrawled a racial slur on a white board on one of her suite-mate’s doors.
“N****r,” the board read.
“After I saw it, I immediately took a picture,” Burton said at a Civil Campus Council forum held on Thursday in the Student Union Building.
Because she is the only African-American student on the floor, Burton said she quickly realized that the racial slur was directed towards her. This incident happened after multiple instances of fellow students on her floor making racist or demeaning comments.
“Coming from a predominantly black area — I’m from Maryland — I was never really exposed to that until coming out here,” Burton said.
Burton said she was afraid that the residential adviser of her dormitory would not take proper action, so she decided to show the picture to UNM security in hopes of preventing similar situations in the future.
“When it happens it is definitely a shock,” Burton said.
According to KRQE, “Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre investigated the incident and found the person who did it. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, that student could face anything from cultural sensitivity training to probation.”
“They violated a housing policy about writing sensitive material like that on a board, and they violated conduct on the community,” Aguirre said in an interview with the Daily Lobo. “By writing something like that on the door, they violated the community in a negative way. So they will be held responsible for violating both of those policies.”
Instead of focusing exclusively on the perpetrator, Aguirre said the University is also employing a new strategy called pejorative justice to help the community deal with the incident.
“Pejorative justice is our current model where, instead of just focusing on the person who committed the violation, you also think about how the violation affects the community,” he said. “So, the sanction is designed to heal.”
Aguirre said that no matter what an individual’s perspective on the word may be, the language was not appropriate for the University.
“The bottom line is it’s not appropriate for the UNM community,” he said. “You have to hold the individual accountable for that because we just don’t support that kind of behavior.”
The Civil Campus Council was launched in direct response to incidents last year concerning racism.
The presentation was not in reaction to the incident that occurred last Friday, Aguirre said. He said that however, it was relevant to the discussion topic of the increasingly common use of the “n word” in society today.
Aguirre said the council will continue to provide an open forum for discussion and education of delicate issues such as this at UNM. He said there will be a similar discussion next month in collaboration with the Women’s Resource Center.
“We just have to keep working at it from a lot of different angles to do better,” Aguirre said. “I don’t think there’s one solution out there, but I think if we work together as a community, we can make it a better place.”