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Student protesters demand that racially-charged incidents are addressed at Buffalo State College

The protest highlighted how emotions are breaking out at Buff State. Students are demanding college leadership address recent racially-charged incidents.
Credit: WGRZ
A student at Tuesday's protest at Buffalo State

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A lecturer at SUNY Buffalo State College is under review after comments she made about Black Lives Matter were recorded and posted on social media.

This as many students across campus are demanding Buff State leaders address racially-charged incidents at the school, where there was a protest Tuesday.

The protest highlighted how emotions are breaking out at Buff State. Students are demanding college leadership address recent racially-charged incidents. One of them involving a part-time instructor.

"This is me speaking honestly and you guys have to respond honestly with what you think with what you feel about this I am sick of talking about Black Lives Matter, alright I said it," the instructor said. 

Students have identified that the instructor is Erica Cope. She is listed on Buff State’s website as a lecturer in the College Writing Program.

Jahnay Morehead says she recorded the video in September when she had Cope as a professor.

"She definitely did bring it up randomly," Morehead said. "There was a few students kind of agree with her unfortunately, there were some students that were like whoa, wait a minute, but no one really wanted to speak out because of the consequences that could prevail."

Morehead says she held onto the video until she heard about Tuesday's protest and posted the video on social media.

We did reach out to Cope, who wrote back to 2 On Your Side’s Karys Belger saying that she has been told not to respond to this situation for the time being that she may have to get an attorney and doesn’t think it’s wise to talk about this now.

Another student here says he was racially profiled last month.

"They tried to point me out at a party where a lot of students were gathered and I wasn’t there and the only thing they could go off of from camera footage was from the guy’s build and skin color," said Clarence Shepard, a Buff State senior, who says he was brought up on Code of Conduct violations that were vacated after a hearing.

"It’s just the trauma that comes after it, like I told this group, I haven’t really slept in the last few nights," Shepard said. 

Students also raised questions about a residential assistant using racial slurs on campus. 

In response to the video on social media, Buff State’s president Kate Conway-Turner released a long statement Tuesday evening. The statement reads in part:

"Over the past few days, two unfortunate matters have converged in our physical and digital campus communities. Following concerns of perceived injustices within our Residence Life division shared on campus and on social media, and a jarring and hurtful comment by an instructor in a video circulating online, members of our college community, including me, are frustrated and disappointed.

"Although we have been recognized on numerous occasions for our diversity and social justice efforts on campus, the events of the past few days have made clear that our work to sustain and nurture an equitable and inclusive campus environment is incomplete. We must continue our work and address any and all emerging issues as they are brought forward.

"Earlier today, a group of students gathered in the Plaza to express their views on these situations. We support their right to peaceably assemble and make their voices heard. We will continue to listen and provide a forum to come together to discuss these difficult issues."

The full statement can be read online here.