DIAC Responds to Newspaper Opinion Piece

On Oct. 7 and 13, DIAC published a response to a recent anonymous "Sound Off" published in the weekly Potsdam newspaper.

On Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, an anonymous writer published a misinformed and even hateful complaint in North Country This Week, the local free weekly paper, about SUNY Canton students and students of color in general. Several community members wrote in to disagree strongly.

The DIAC Steering Committee published a letter in response (submitted to website on Wed., Oct. 7 and published in newspaper Tu. Oct. 13). Since then, all members of DIAC have signed on and the letter was sent by email from CFD to students associated with CFD. Here is DIAC's letter:

In response to the Sound Off "College Student Crime" which appeared in the Sept. 30-Oct. 6 issue of North Country This Week: the writer expressed the view that college students of color are ruining the North Country way of life. We reject the misconceptions expressed and invite our neighbors to join us in exploring more constructive responses beyond the opinion page.

No college students get a free ride from the state. Even students with the lowest family incomes receive only a small portion of their aid from the state; and they all take out significant loans. All students pay tuition and fees, one way or another.

Thanks to their investment, employment in colleges in our county is up 25% over the past 15 years, just in educational services as referenced in a "Health, College Jobs; Fewer With High Pay" which was on the front page of the Sept. 30-Oct. 6 edition of North Country This Week.

No one likes physical violence, and we also reject verbal violence like that in the Sound Off. In fact, students who come to the North Country from any urban environment are often looking for the same safe, quiet environment that the permanent residents want.

In our daily work, we find college students of color to be serious, kind, and courteous – even though they are frequently attacked with verbal slurs and objects thrown by people in passing cars or in houses on our "safe" streets.

Tragically, violence does happen in St. Lawrence County, but only in this case is someone using it to blame a large group on the basis of their race. When other violent crimes have occurred, no one claimed that a way of life was being ruined by everyone from the perpetrators' towns, workplaces, or age groups. Blaming all students of color for ruining the quality of life in a mostly-white area is indeed racist and has violent implications.

We stand with our colleagues at SUNY Canton and in support of college students of color in the North Country. Let's keep our priorities straight and support good neighbors, whether they're here for an education or any other reason.

SUNY Potsdam Diversity in Action Coalition Steering Committee: Latesha Fussell, Jennifer Mitchell, Jay Pecora, Amanda Grazioso, Louise Tyo, Lonel Woods, Libbie Freed, Oscar Sarmiento, Susan Stebbins

Here is the original anonymous statement to which we responded:

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 6:53 am
In reference to the Domino's employee attacked and robbed, let me guess, the perpetrators are SUNY Canton students recruited to the college by the administration probably with a free ride from New York City so the college can boast about diversity and growth. Bringing in students from the city by the busload has ruined the rural North Country atmosphere on campus and negatively affected the crime rate in the community. North Country college kids may party and have fun but they don't attack and rob the pizza man or form gangs that assault and stab other students. As an alumni of SUNY Canton, I get annual requests for donations and I always decline to give a dime. My children didn't receive any tuition assistance to attend SUNY but busloads of New York City kids do. So no thanks, I don't want to be partly responsible for bringing crime to the area. My last point is that most folks that live in the North Country live here because they enjoy the area for many reasons including low crime. If we wanted to live in a city with all of its benefits of a diverse population but where it is not safe to walk the streets or deliver a pizza we would move. View Statement Online

Here is a link to one of the first responses from outraged community members, but there are others below. View Response

The SUNY Canton President also published an excellent letter in both North Country This Week and the Watertown Daily Times. View Letter

Meanwhile, some students spoke out in Watertown Daily Times article on Oct. 25 on the matter of the investigation of hate speech notes. View Comments

On Oct. 30, President Esterberg emailed a response which updated the community on the investigation. UP Chief Ashley has also said that he welcomes student questions.

DIAC celebrates all students and welcome the diversity of SUNY Potsdam student body. We know that many in the community want to support people of color at the College and in the community. The DIAC subcommittee on Community Outreach is working to develop a network of supporters in the community and to have conversations about creating a better climate in town for people of color.

Other responses to the original Sound Off