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Suffolk University student’s claim of racism adds to turmoil at school

Barry Chin/Globe Staff/File

Suffolk University interim president Marisa Kelly said the school wants to make sure no students feel discriminated against.

By Globe Staff 

Suffolk University’s interim president said Tuesday that the college will hold mandatory microaggression training for all faculty in response to an outcry last week after a Latina student wrote a viral blog post saying she was the victim of a professor’s racial bias.

The interim leader, Marisa Kelly, said the school takes the incident seriously and wants to make sure no students feel discriminated against at Suffolk.

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Kelly also listed a number of new administrators that have been hired in recent months to address matters of diversity and inclusion and said the school two weeks ago launched an internal climate survey to assess areas that need improvement.

“While these [microaggression training] sessions will not make us perfect, it is my hope that through training and open dialog we will further foster a climate that is safe, supportive, and welcoming to all,” Kelly wrote in a blog post Tuesday posted on the university website.

Microaggressions are subtle displays of bigotry or misogyny.

The incident erupted last Friday when the website Buzzfeed wrote about the blog post by student Tiffany Martinez.

Martinez said an unidentified Suffolk sociology professor handed back a paper she had written and in front of the class and told Martinez, “This is not your language,” insinuating that Martinez had plagiarized.

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Martinez posted a photo of the paper on her blog, showing where the professor appears to have written “please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The professor had circled the word “hence” in the paper and wrote, “this is not your word.”

“In this interaction, my undergraduate career was both challenged and critiqued,” the student wrote. “It is worth repeating how my professor assumed I could not use the word “hence,” a simple transitory word that connected two relating statements. The professor assumed I could not produce quality research.”

Martinez did not respond to a Facebook message from the Globe requesting comment. She has declined to name the professor, as has the university.

Kelly, the interim president, also sent a note to the school on Friday after the Buzzfeed article was posted.

“The truth is that all of us here at Suffolk should be concerned about any student feeling this way,” Kelly wrote in her Tuesday blog post. She said the school has experienced an outpouring of support for Martinez from other students, faculty and staff.

“Regardless of the circumstances around any particular incident, we should recognize that many members of our community do experience bias, in ways both small and large,” she said.


Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com
Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.