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Campus group calls for student activity director’s termination after alleged racial slur

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Salisbury University’s National Pan-Hellenic Council is calling for the university to terminate Tricia Garvey Smith, director of the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, from her position after she allegedly used a racial slur at one of the NPHC’s events.

According to an Oct. 20 press release from SU's NPHC, the organization hosted a “Visibility Day” event on Sept. 25 where Garvey Smith allegedly used a racial slur while speaking to two students during the event, one of whom was a student leader, “to express her disapproval for the music that was playing.”

“At this event, I asked a student leader to stop playing music with inappropriate lyrics, including the ‘F’ word and the ‘N’ word. In doing so, I quoted those words from the songs,” Garvey Smith said in an email sent to all SU students.

“Garvey-Smith claims to have used the word to reference lyrics in songs that had been playing, yet there were no songs that used the ‘N’ word ending with the hard ‘er,’” according to the NPHC’s press release.

Following the incident, Garvey Smith met via Zoom with the students involved, who stated they wanted her to release a public apology to all SU students.

Garvey Smith later apologized at a recent Student Government Association forum, sent an email apology to the students who attended the Visibility Day event and then sent an email apology to all SU students.

After the incident occurred at Visibility Day, the NPHC’s advisor filed a complaint with SU’s Office of Institutional Equity, but the office dismissed the complaint, according to the NPHC’s press release. Members of the NPHC then went on to file individual claims.

“After meetings with the Office of Institutional Equity, many NPHC members feel as though Salisbury University is not treating this matter with the severity it should, and [have] been informed that the situation as a whole does not meet the ‘minimum threshold’ to be considered as discrimination,” the NPHC’s press release read.

A recent Student Affairs Group email relayed that while the incident did not meet the discrimination threshold, “the concerns were determined to be significant enough for immediate referral to the offices of Student Affairs and Human Resources” and that “appropriate action has been taken with regard to the staff member involved.”

Exact disciplinary actions were not specified.

The press release also demands that Garvey Smith “be terminated from her position in light of her racist remarks, and her decision to intentionally use a word that everyone knows has a history rooted in slavery, oppression and discrimination.”

“I am hopeful that my work with students can speak for itself and that students and colleagues will not judge me solely on this moment in time when, out of disgust of hearing the lyrics and frustration that the students continued to play such lyrics, I made a poor decision and repeated the word,” Garvey Smith said in a statement.

“I hope and pray that just one student of color I worked with as the CSIL point of contact remembers that I helped them with their organization or with their event planning. I hope and pray that all students see me for who I am.”




Featured image: Ben Lausch image.

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