Instagram Account @blackatfandm Exposes Racism on Campus, TCR Talks to Creator

By|| Anna Synakh and Molly Sproul

On June 22nd, following the protests addressing systematic racial injustice that had been happening throughout the United States, a Franklin and Marshall College student started an Instagram account in order to address the same issue on the college campus. The account’s main goal was to serve as a “platform for all black F&M students, alumni, and community members… to express [their] emotions, thoughts, and experiences as a black person at Franklin and Marshall.” Soon after the account was created, stories began to pour in, exposing the extremity of racism and unawareness that persisted and still persists at the school. In the interview with the owner of the account, it was stated that they were “inspired by the many high schools who have started similar accounts, as well as [their] own experience at F&M” in hopes “to make administration, faculty, and staff more aware of the urgency of racial justice on and off-campus,” while providing “space for all Black F&M community members to share their experiences and stories, and to receive validation.” Over the past few weeks, the account has gained 968 followers and is continuing to grow. 

In an interview with the account’s owner, they revealed that the account shows how deeply racism is ingrained in Franklin and Marshall College’s culture. According to the creator, “followers of the page have reported that every single area of campus needs to change significantly to remedy the pervasive racism on campus.” The stories provided on the Instagram page often show that even when reported these incidents do not get investigated, exposing the non-existence of an anti-racist approach in the way the college functions. Students have been pursued by Public Safety officers solely because of their race, they have been verbally attacked by their classmates with no response from the professors, they have been maltreated while simply walking through campus and assumed to not attend the college. So far, slightly more than 30 stories have been posted, and most of them describe episodes in the past few years. The school often highlights its diversity on campus and prides itself on it, yet, the college is far from diverse, says the owner of the account. “Admissions has a large role to play in the student body diversity, but on a larger scale, the College has a responsibility to create a welcoming community for students who bring diversity to the school. Additionally, every department that hires individuals has a responsibility to create diversity as well. Professors also have to ensure representation in their classes, both by making sure all materials are financially accessible to students but also by including literature and research conducted by BIPOC.” 

According to them, there is a dire need for change and implementation of anti-racist programming throughout the school. One of the first steps the school must take is to provide proper funding to clubs such as BSU, AAA, and ACA, but much more has to be done. 

In response to the creation of the Black at F&M account, the official Instagram account of Franklin and Marshall College privately messaged the owner with sources for Bias Incident Reporting and the links to their website with information on what the college has done to increase diversity and inclusion in the past. The received response felt rather underwhelming to the creator of Black at F&M, and they sent a message back in hopes to create a larger discussion of the issue. They have yet to receive a response from F&M’s account. 

“I had hoped that they would send a message of acknowledgment to all of the Black community members who have so generously and painfully shared their stories with the public, but there was nothing of the sort, ” says the owner with disappointment. The owner believes the best way to combat these race-related incidents “isn’t only through a bias reporting system or individualized response, but also through an unapologetic institutional commitment to anti-racism in the curriculum, hiring, admissions, Greek life, campus life, and athletics. Right now, it feels like the College is more concerned about tradition, money, and history than their student body. I think that every part of the College is to blame, down to every professor who did not evaluate their own practices.” Furthermore, the owner states, to help prevent future incidents, “the administration needs to handle incidents of racism and bias with gravity and swiftness” and PSafe needs to take accountability for “committing heinous and traumatizing acts against students.”

Anonymity plays a large role in the account’s rising, and it goes far beyond the owner’s identity.  “I think that it creates a space for honesty and reality for people,” the owner states. “I think it’s hard for people to share if they know their name or identity is attached to their story because of a fear of retaliation or social isolation. Racists often have stronger support systems than those speaking out against it, especially at Primarily White Institutions like F&M, and the College has shown that this is true.”

To conclude the interview, they wanted to share a message with the Franklin and Marshall community: “I am deeply and truthfully grateful to every single person who has interacted with the page in any way, and especially grateful to Black community members who have shared their stories and have had faith in me. It has made me reflect on my part in the community, as well as made me feel unified with those who have had similar experiences to me. I hope that this page will be a safe haven for Black students to create community and to feel seen and heard, and I hope that I have given some of those people a voice. As always, feel free to DM or email me for any questions or suggestions. ”

Junior Anna Synakh is the Copy and Social Media Editor, her email is asynakh@fandm.edu

Senior Molly Sproul is the Website Editor, her email is msproul@fandm.edu

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