Incident leads to letter, diversity discussion

by Molly Crain
News Editor

When the Transylvania men’s basketball team beat Centre College 74-62 Nov. 22, the student section certainly had something to cheer for.

Some cheers, however, occurred at the expense of a Centre basketball player, who was targeted as the victim of racial slurs from the Pioneer bleachers.

After the game, President R. Owen Williams received a letter from an angry Centre teammate and friend of the player who was singled out with the jeer “token.” This letter was forwarded to Director of Athletics Jack Ebel.

The student’s name is being withheld to protect the victim’s privacy.

“I heard the chant ‘token’ only because it was pointed out to me — because I wasn’t sitting originally where I could hear it,” said Ebel. “So I went over to the score table to say something to the announcer, and that’s when I heard it.”

The Centre basketball player who sent the letter was “very upset that his friend was treated inappropriately,” Ebel said. Ebel added that the player also mentioned that he knew that the catcalls were not “indicative of the whole Transylvania community.”

Feeling that the young man “deserved a response,” Ebel replied to his letter, and also called the Centre basketball coach to apologize to him and his team for the actions of the Transy student section during the game.

Senior Kaitie Luckey was one fan present at the game.

“I have so much pride in this school, but being in the student section two weeks ago as they chanted, ‘Token!’ about the one black basketball player Centre had was very embarrassing,” said Luckey. “It called the attention of many people.”

As of now, Transylvania athletics has not received sanctions from the NCAA or the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Understanding the seriousness of the situation, Williams sought out Eduardo Nino-Moreno, the director of campus diversity and inclusion.

Nino-Moreno was first informed of the incident while in the country of Panama on an official school trip with other members of Transy’s administration to advertise the university to foreign students

“There are many things that we can do, and will be doing,” said Nino-Moreno. “(Williams) wants to start early next (calendar) year. What we could do would be promoting discussion. It could be anywhere. We don’t need to be very formal about it.”

Nino-Moreno also hopes to create workshops on campus for faculty, students and even staff.

“We cannot let it go … because of the immediate response as a community was practically nonexistent. … We have to go beyond writing a letter saying we are sorry,” said Nino-Moreno.

Student leaders on campus have taken to responding to the incident, and the underlying issues it alludes to. The President’s Circle, a campus initiative new this school year that attempts to gather together representatives from different student organizations, discussed possible responses at a meeting Tuesday.

“One of the ways we can deal with it is by talking about it,” said senior Josh Edge, president of the Student Government Association.

The group is currently organizing a night of discussion with students, faculty, staff and the administration that could culminate in a speaker series that addresses all issues of diversity on campus.

Even on the NCAA level, diversity has been a topic that has been emphasized.

“Part of it is an education problem. We need more exposure for our students,” said Ebel.

Last year, the NCAA hosted a diversity convention for the HCAC in Indianapolis, in which eight Transy students from various sports participated.

“In our new push to change our campus demographically, we need to catch up,” said Ebel. “We need to try to educate people.”

Ebel said he plans to continue to send Transy athletes to this conference in the future.

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