Afro-studies prof confirms act of racism

An African-American Studies and Music professor has confirmed he was the victim of the “recent, distressing incident” of racial discrimination that university officials have remained silent on after acknowledging an ongoing investigation last week.

Associate Professor Leonard Brown addressed the Faculty Senate today in an effort “to really serve as a catalyst for the effects of positive change.”

Brown said he received “a very racist, anti-Black” message on his office voicemail in the early morning of Sept. 24, which he played for faculty at the meeting.

After hearing the message, Brown said he notified the Office of the University Counsel the following day, who then notified the Office of the President. It has since been under investigation by the Northeastern Police Department, but Brown said efforts have not yet turned up any leads.

The message came only hours after Brown had participated in the university’s annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert.

“I can honestly say that this incident has made me reflect and question what daily life is like for blacks on Northeastern’s campus, be they a professor, middle level administrator, food service personnel or student,” Brown said in a written statement.

The matter has been the subject of recent speculation following a letter from President Joseph Aoun, posted Thursday night to myNEU, describing a “recent, distressing incident” on campus without providing specific information.

“The incident on campus that I referenced runs counter to all that I have discussed here,” the letter said. “I hope that this was not action taken by students, faculty or staff, nonetheless, it did occur in our community.”

In addition to this incident, Vice President and University Counsel Vincent Lembo said today that the university has received two reports of racially or religiously motivated graffiti being posted on campus in recent weeks.

The disclosure comes on the eve of the third annual Race Relations on New England Campuses conference, in which Northeastern will host 250 participants from 70 institutions to discuss practices for diversity and inclusion.

Brown said the president’s letter was “a good first step,” but cautioned that it was “only a first step.”

“His letter states that Northeastern will be a leader, nationally and internationally, in combating racism and embracing diversity,” Brown said. “The question is how this will be done, for we currently do not have the necessary systems with accountability in place.”

As part of the university’s efforts to tackle the issue, Brown suggested the Faculty Senate establish a standing committee on combating and eliminating racism and other forms of discrimination at Northeastern, as well as work with the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity to “to develop a comprehensive plan for integrating anti-racist and anti-discrimination education into our curricular offerings, across all disciplines and all colleges, undergraduate and graduate.”

“The fact that ‘the victim’ has to take the initiative clearly shows the need for a thorough re-examination of university policies, procedures and accountability in matters of discrimination,” he said.

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