ONEONTA -- Many SUNY Oneonta students were not even born when the community was rocked by a racial-profiling incident two decades ago.
But the legacy of the "Black List" scandal continues.
Several students -- all 20 years old or younger -- studying and socializing in the Hunt Student Union on Sunday said they had heard of the Black List, particularly in recent months.
Last Wednesday, SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski said the "Black List" was a "low point" for the college and announced the formation of the September 4 Commemoration Committee to develop programming focused on the event.
On the morning of Sept. 4, 1992, a 77-year-old woman visiting a family just outside the city of Oneonta told police she was attacked as she slept and struggled with her knife-wielding assailant before he fled. Based on a glimpse of the attacker's hand and his voice, she concluded he was black, and blood at the scene indicated he had been cut on the hand, police said.
The college gave state police the list of 78 black male students in September 1992 to help in the investigation. Release of the list sparked public outcry and national media attention.
In the following days, police stopped hundreds of black people in the area, questioned them about their whereabouts and checked their hands for signs of wounds.
Students react to scandal
SUNY Oneonta students Alex Sader, 20, of Alleghany, and Melody Grape, 20, of Andes, said they started hearing about the Black List in the fall.
"It's really awful," Grape said.
Grape, who grew up in southern Delaware County, said she was surprised she hadn't learned of the incident before arriving at the college two years ago.
Both she and Sader said the campus is a diverse community, and racism seem to be a non-issue.
"I don't feel that racism is an issue on campus," Sader said.
Grape said she lives in a downtown apartment.
"Oneonta is not as culturally diverse when you get off campus," she said.
But she said she hasn't heard of any racial problems in the community as a whole either.
Stephanie LeClerc, 19, and Sarah Weigel, 20, also said talk about the "Black List" had become more noticeable in recent months, particularly after a series of forums on diversity held last fall.
"I was shocked to hear about it," LeClerk of Saratoga said. "Boys were being pulled out of showers and out of their rooms. For 20 years ago, it's insane."
Although LeClerc said she only learned of the "Black List" after starting college, Weigel of Milford said it was a part of her high school curriculum during classes on race.
"It was so surreal that something like that happened in my hometown," Weigel said.
The two women also said the campus is diverse, it can be cliquey at times. But racial incidents are not part of the campus climate, they said.
Oneonta as a whole is less diverse and there are rumblings of occasional incidents, the said.
"People talk about it," LeClerc said.
'Important to remember'
Oneonta NAACP President Lee Fisher applauded Kleneiwski for launching the September 4 Commemoration Committee.
"I think she's a straight-forward person," he said. "I have a lot of respect for her."
The Oneonta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in the wake of the "Black List" scandal.
"Racism is alive. We know that," Fisher said. "It's there. Sometime it doesn't appear as strong. From working with the NAACP, we have issues that come up."
When they do, he said, and the incidents have a racist element, they need to be dealt with directly.
"Bring it out in the open and speak about it," Fisher said. "If you see things that might be unjust, don't cover it up."
Fisher said much of the responsibility for dealing with racism lies with those in positions of leadership.
"I think a mistake can be made. But if the mistake was made, people have to look at it and say, 'I own up to that mistake,'" Fisher said. "If that happens, it diffuses a lot."
It's important to remember event such as the Black List scandal, he said.
"Some people have the attitude if you leave it alone, it will be forgotten," Fisher said.
But this doesn't always work, he said. "It could be a dead issue for 40 years and suddenly come to the surface."