After 'hate-crime' melee, calm eludes Quaker school
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The father of one of the football players, who was arrested and charged, released a picture to the media that showed his son had a bruise shaped like a belt buckle on his back. He says that is proof the football players were not the only culpable ones. In a statement released to the media last Friday, he wrote: "When all of the facts are revealed, we believe that those who are sensationalizing this story will be rightly embarrassed...."Skip to next paragraph
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The college administration, which has its own independent investigation under way, is determined to quell the excited emotions on both sides of the debate. It has said it will not pass any judgments until its review is complete.
"We seek truth, justice, and reconciliation," Guilford College President Kent Chabotar told students at an open forum last Wednesday. "Those are hard – impossible to achieve without due process and without listening to each other."
That determination to uphold the Quaker value of patience has angered some students at Guilford who believe that the college should be moving faster to label the incident a hate crime. During the past week, they've held candlelight vigils, staged a one-day boycott of classes, and held repeated meetings with top college officials.
"If there's one thing almost everybody ... agrees on, is that it was a hate crime," says Yuri Woodstock, a freshman from Roanoke, Va.
Other students believe the school is handling things well. And they've found their colleagues' way of expressing their anger inappropriate.
"Despite being somewhat displeased with the almost irrational initial reaction, I was also pleased to see that people actually cared," says Wes Corning, a senior from Washington, D.C., and president of the school's Community Senate. "It's formed into a real sign that the students like to protect Guilford and all it stands for – they do take the Quaker values really seriously here."
Those values have also helped the local Muslim-American community, which has always had good relations with the college, come to terms with the incident.
"If it had happened at any other college, I'd be standing on the corner raising [a ruckus]," says Isa Abuzuaiter, chairman of the Board of the Islamic Center of the Triad, which represents the estimated 10,000 Muslims in the Greensboro area. "But it's Guilford, and so we really don't know what to do."
Mr. Abuzuaiter and others in the area are doing their best to support the three students. But they are worried about the impact of the incident on their own children. His son Michael, who was born and raised in Greensboro, plays football for Guilford's archrival, Greensboro College.
"Would these players take revenge on my son and try to hurt him on the field? I don't know," he says.
But he and his colleagues are also optimistic about the future for Muslims in America, despite the current climate. And one reason, they say, is the way that Guilford College and its students are responding to the incident.
"The Quakers are our friends. They have always opened their hearts to us," says Badi Ali, president of the Islamic Center. "What we're seeing now is the fruit of those years of cooperation.... We need more education and exposure to each other. We need to stand up for victims and to challenge the racist mood in this country."