Pick-up Basketball Results in Alleged Racial Profiling
Following an incident that took place at the McCann Center in November 2018, Marist Security will undergo “cultural competency training” sometime in the near future, according to John Blaisdell, director of Safety and Security.
The announcement came after a group of five young men--which consisted of two commuter students and their guests-- said they were racially profiled by Marist Security while playing basketball in the school’s gym last semester. According to the individuals, all of whom were black, a Marist security officer singled out only their group and asked for them to display their school identification. After they did not comply, the security officer invoked Poughkeepsie police to the scene.
The individuals directly involved declined to be interviewed or identified. Student Body President Ted Dolce ‘19 spoke with the students and described the event on their behalf.
During the night the incident took place, Dolce said he was eating dinner on campus when he received a call from his friends, who were playing basketball in McCann.
“They said, ‘we’re being kicked out of the gym, they want us to show ID but they haven’t asked anybody else.’”
When Dolce arrived at McCann, he saw a number of Marist security vehicles parked outside.
He described the timeline as follows: The security officer approached only the group of black students in the gym and asked for them to display their Marist ID’s in order to prove that they were students. The men did not comply because they felt that they were being racially profiled, and in response, the security officer called the Poughkeepsie police.
“Everybody wasn’t willing to show ID because they felt like they were being singled out because of their race and they were being profiled. They weren’t wrong, because all they were doing was playing basketball and after that they got the cops on them,” Dolce said.
According to Dolce, the situation escalated once the police officers arrived. While Marist security briefed the police officers on the situation, Dolce said he turned to the student next to him, saying, “let’s go.” He said the police officer took his comment “with the wrong tone”, placed his hand by his holster “as if he was about to do something with it,” and said, “what did you say to me.”
Shortly after, Dolce said, another police officer joined in and added, “say it again, we’re all men here.”
Dolce said he and his friends recognized where the situation was headed, and they soon exited the gym.
“It’s about six black men who are among police officers. I’m a criminal justice major, I recognize the history there and I recognize the dynamic there,” Dolce said.
Blaisdell was not present at the time the event took place. However, he said that, based on the information he had collected, the security officer, at some point, approached all of the groups in the gym for their Marist ID’s.
“There were three groups playing basketball. The reports that I have indicate that the other two groups were asked to identify their affiliation with the college as was the group that had called Ted. I do not know if this transpired before or after Ted’s arrival,” Blaisdell said. It is unclear from whom Blaisdell obtained this information.
After the men exited the gym, the incident diffused without further confrontation, but Dolce said that he was deeply affected and ultimately went to therapy to process the event.
“I had experiences in my past that came up from that,” Dolce said. “It re-traumatizes you. It revictimizes you. And you have to still process and still be a person while people are demeaning and belittling and minimizing your experience to basically, at least you didn’t die.”
Blaisdell met with Dolce and Student Body Vice President Ankofa Billips ‘19 to discuss steps forward following the event. Dolce outlined a few measures the school agreed upon implementing, which Blaisdell later confirmed. In addition to cultural competency training for Marist security, two student representatives--the vice president of diversity and inclusion and the vice president of safety and security from the Student Government Association--will now sit on the hiring board for safety and security. Dolce said that the security officer responsible for calling the police should be demoted or fired. He said this motion was also being considered.
“To be that ignorant as to call the police on a group of young, black men, why are you in such a position?” Dolce said. “That racial profiling was unnecessary and frankly it makes you feel that you do not belong here, that you do not belong at a campus that you pay so much money to be at, on a campus that is supposed to be your home.”
Blaisdell said that he cannot comment on personnel matters.
Dr. Robyn Rosen, a professor of history who provided Dolce with emotional support following the event, wrote in an email to the The Circle that, based on what Dolce told her, she believes the occurrence was racial profiling.
“I'm not sure if there would be another way to interpret security guards only asking black people for their ID and not white people and then calling in the local police. This was a bunch of people playing basketball in a gym, not any kind of altercation,” Rosen said.
Security profiling black students on campus is not uncharacteristic, Dolce said. During his freshman year, he said he was told by black upperclassmen that he would frequently be asked for his Marist ID on campus. Though he feels that the the problem has diminished slightly during his time here, random ID’ing still occurs. He said he believes the Marist culture exacerbates this behavior.
“I think it applies to any campus, but on our campus specifically, we have a superficial level of liberalism that we ascribe to, that we are here in a unity kumbaya, without recognizing that we do have differences and people ascribe certain stereotypes on those differences,” he said.
Marist has hosted different programs in the past to educate the community on racial profiling and implicit bias, including a “Check Your Blind spots” tour in April, which addressed unconscious bias and stereotypes. The school also released a climate survey last semester to assess inclusivity at Marist.
Blaisdell expressed his commitment to cultural competency training, noting that he maintains one of the most diverse departments on campus.
“I want students to feel as though they can come to me,” he said.
Rosen discussed the event at McCann in the context of “increasing awareness of the dangers of implicit bias and resurgence of white supremacist activism in our country.”
“All of our students need to feel safe here and it is everyone's responsibility to make sure that they do,” she said.
As for Dolce, the school must be willing to accept its flaws before meaningful progress can be made.
“If we have that fake unity...it’s harder to realize that, no, we do have racists on this campus, and we do have people that are bigots and prejudice in all sorts of ways. We just have to address it...”