Pennsylvania Panel to Probe Racial Incidents on College Campuses

By Yates, Eleanor Lee | Black Issues in Higher Education, May 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Pennsylvania Panel to Probe Racial Incidents on College Campuses


Yates, Eleanor Lee, Black Issues in Higher Education


NOTEWORTHY NEWS: Pennsylvania Panel to Probe Racial Incidents On College Campuses

HARRISBURG, PA.

THE LATEST NEWS FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Aresolution authorizing the Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Committee on Education to investigate racial incidents on college campuses recently passed unanimously. Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr., the sponsor of the resolution, hopes the legislation will draw attention to what he believes are lingering, fundamental racial problems on college campuses.

"I think this (resolution) is a general recognition that there are problems," he says, adding that the unanimous vote was evidence that the issue cut across different political opinions.

"I hope this will force us as legislators to look at ways we can try to come to terms with racism, to look at ways in which colleges and universities fail to address this," says Roebuck, a Democrat who has served in the state House for more than 15 years.

Roebuck says recent problems on the campuses of Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pennsylvania served as a catalyst for the resolution.

"But it also goes back to a continuing concern of how the state addresses equal opportunity on college campuses," he says.

On April 3, a Black graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania alleged a racially motivated assault by the owner and employees of a campus copy center. The student, Gregory Seaton, says he was denied service at the copy center and then was beaten by store employees.

The university police have classified the incident as a simple assault. The owner of the copy center, Stan Shapiro, recently apologized for providing "poor service" to Seaton but denies the incident was motivated by race.

Seaton says he was waiting for service when Shapiro ignored him and waited on a White professor who came in after he did. Seaton admits exchanging harsh words and leaving the copy center for several minutes. But he decided to return because he had to pick up a copy order for work. When Seaton returned, he allegedly asked Shapiro if being White would get him faster service. The verbal exchange became physical before university police arrived.

The incident created a flurry of protests from more than two dozen student groups. The groups are demanding that the University of Pennsylvania withdraw its financial support of the copy center, which is not owned by the university, until a thorough investigation is complete.

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