As this post from delagar shows, my university is not the only university that is seeing an upsurge in hate incidents since the election.
The responses to these incidents by university leadership and by the community is extremely important. My university, as it has been for all the years that I have been here and all of the bigoted racist things that one student or another has done (because this state school has never been a liberal paradise), has had a quick and strong response. Now, as in the past, the university president comes down hard and reminds all of us that hate is not one of our school’s values. Hate goes against our honor code. Our school is inclusive of all. (When, in the past, it’s been a student doing something horrific, usually said student ends up voluntarily leaving the school prior to an expulsion hearing, something that would never happen at say, Yale.)
This time around the president was echoed by student leaders, by the faculty staff, by our deans and so on. Protests and education activities have been planned and all are invited. A stronger response than anything I’ve seen previously, perhaps because everybody realizes that we must nip these kinds of things in the bud before they become normalized. Because they are not normal. Our mostly white male leadership is sending a strong signal that this behavior will not be tolerated, not on our campus. I feel supported.
My university is also not the only university where a few “I’m not racist but… this is not a big deal/free speech means freedom from criticism but only for bigots/etc.” blowhards have piped up after the incident has been condemned. The official response to these nay-sayers is also important. In this most recent case, our dean came down hard (but politely) on one of our lecturers (a practitioner, which means he’s making about the same as faculty and has full benes) who condescendingly replied-all with one of these “I’m not racist but…”s to the official student response from student leaders in our major. The dean’s firm response sends a signal to the students that they should keep fighting and to nay-sayers that they need to stop being oblivious jerks.
If your university hasn’t been making these kinds of responses there are still things that you can do. Your voice alone may not do much (though it will still help), but you can ask your university president, your faculty senate, your chair, your dean, and so on to give an official response. Especially if you are tenured. Especially if they are white guys. Nobody should officially accommodate hate, and silence can be seen as consent. And maybe some of these folks just need a nudge to do the right thing. When they important administrators do speak up, thank them for doing the right thing and making the environment safer and more inclusive. Because their official actions do mean a lot.
If you’re at a university, have you seen an increase in hate incidents? What has been the response at your school to these incidents? Have you done anything in response?