Students boycott Heartland due to alleged discrimination
In response to alleged discriminatory marks directed at senior Kristine Rosario outside of Heartland on Jan. 30, a group of students has organized a boycott to protest the popular dance club, located in downtown South Bend.
Wednesday night, the group, consisting of about 14 students, including Rosario, as well as others who were present on the night of the incident, gathered informally for the first time in LaFortune to formalize the boycott and to discuss other possible courses of action against Heartland.
"Wednesday's meeting was an attempt to come together as a group and to try and consolidate ideas that we had been previously passing about through word of mouth," said senior Shamus Rohn, a student involved with the boycott.
As a result of the meeting, the group was able to run signs throughout campus informing students about the boycott at Heartland on Thursdays when the club has its college night.
"I am seeking a formal, public apology from the management at Heartland," said Rosario. "The boycott against Heartland will continue until an apology is made."
The group has also agreed to write an open letter to Heartland outlining their reasons and objectives for the boycott.
While the main thrust of the boycott is to obtain a formal apology from Heartland, the group is also discussing other forms of action. Some of the proposed ideas include having Heartland send the bouncer involved with the alleged incident to local diversity training and possibly asking Heartland to make a donation to La Casa de Amistad, a Hispanic service organization.
The management at Heartland has contacted Chandra Johnson, assistant director of cross-cultural ministry. A meeting between Rosario and the Heartland management is expected to take place at some point next week.
"What is the most upsetting to me is that it took this long for Heartland to respond," said Rosario.
Mike Holt, who is in charge of customer service at Heartland, said the accused bouncer denied that he made the discriminatory remark. Holt, who trained the accused bouncer, said he belived him.
"He's the most mild person in here, but he's the strictest at the door," Holt said, adding that the bouncer is one of four men who handles the door on College Night and that he has worked at Heartland for three years.
Holt added that The Observer Viewpoint letters to the editor, where the alleged situation was first presented, have created a "he said, she said" conflict between Rosario and the the bouncer.
"The only two people that really know in my opinion were those two," he said.
Although he has not seen the surveillance tape, Holt said employees that have question whether other witnesses could have heard a remark.
Holt said he would review the tape Sunday. For now, the accused bouncer is discussing legal action and Holt said Heartland management is willing to meet with Rosario.
The first Viewpoint letter appeared Feb. 5. Holt said Feb. 6, which was college night, showed a decline in numbers, which Holt attributed to the renewed loyalty to The Boat Club after its bust.
The response from students concerning the boycott has been mixed.
One senior, Katie Stolz, noted that while some students are choosing to boycott Heartland because of the incident with Rosario, others are simply opting to hang out at other establishments.
"Lower attendance at Heartland is due to a number of factors, including the presence of places like Rum Runners and Fiddler's Hearth," said Stolz.
Other students stated that the boycott was not publicized well enough for it to be effective.
"While I will never go to Heartland again, my hope is that the boycott will make people more aware of what happened," Rosario said.
Helena Payne also contributed to this report.
All News Stories for Friday, February 14, 2003