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Fanaticism gone too far or premeditated discrimination?

Staff Writer

No_discrimination-20110805Although Georgetown College may have beaten the University of the Cumberlands on the court, the behavior of some Georgetown fans was far from winning. An interview with Dr. Eric Carter, a Georgetown college professor of Sociology, revealed just what happened on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Georgetown College vs. University of the Cumberlands basketball game.

The first thing Carter heard when he walked into the gymnasium (the game was already in progress) was a group of 12-15 Georgetown College students chanting “Where’s your green card?” The group of students were dressed in what Carter described as “Mexican gangbanger” attire which included flamboyant colors and backwards bandanas; however, Carter was told the group was meant to portray a “Miami Vice” theme. Their comments were directed at Benito Santiago, Jr. who is not only a basketball player for the University of the Cumberlands but also the son of Major League Baseball player Benito Santiago, a native to Puerto Rico (not Mexico). Every time Santiago Jr. touched the ball, the group would chant “U.S.A.” Carter texted Dr. Todd Gambill, the Georgetown College Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students, and informed him of what was happening. Gambill sent Campus Safety officials who confronted the group around halftime after which the group left.

When asked if this sort of thing happened often at Georgetown College, Gambill admitted that although racist comments are not common, he has heard students make inappropriate comments about opposing players’ physical appearance saying things like they are overweight or they have long hair so they must be a girl.

Carter believes this is not an isolated case. “We’re coming to a crossroads at this college.” He believes that although Georgetown College has made attempts to promote diversity over discrimination, the efforts have not been as fruitful as Georgetown College would like to believe. Some parts of Georgetown College, such as the non-discrimination policy that does not prevent discrimination against gender identification and sexual-orientation in the workplace, creates a culture that can fuel this type of behavior.

Is Georgetown College trying to create closed minded, ignorant scholars? Of course not, but the college is not perfect. Let’s face it, Georgetown College is a primarily white school which makes it easier for things like this to be “swept under the rug,” but that is no excuse to let such behavior continue.

Georgetown College is taking steps to right this wrong. Carter suggests the college send a letter of apology to the University of the Cumberlands. At the following basketball game, Gambill made a point to sit in various sections of the gymnasium as a way to monitor the crowd’s behavior, and as some of you may remember, Gambill sent out a campus wide email addressing the issue and urging students to “make sure that our fanaticism does not cross over into hateful territory”; however, this does not appear to be a situation of excited fans crossing the line. The group in question came dressed for the occasion, suggesting that this was planned out.

Carter claims that one of the disturbing things about the whole situation was knowing certain students in the audience did not agree with the behavior, yet they did nothing about it; however, he understands that it would be very intimidating to confront a group of that size. Carter and Gambill both agree that authority figures only have so much influence when it comes to stopping situations like this. The best way to end such discriminating actions is if fellow students are the ones standing up against it. Georgetown College, those in authority and the students, need to adopt a culture of diversity celebration rather than ignorant discrimination.