Healing After Hate

by Liam Farrell | photos by John T. Consoli

While the arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, that has never meant it doesn’t need help, or that there aren’t forces trying to push it the other way.

Be they the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enshrined in our Declaration of Independence or our pledges of egalitarian education here at the University of Maryland, we work each day to strive toward goals that are difficult to meet—but all the more worthy for being so.

We seem to have entered a new era of divisiveness. From children spewing racial slurs in school hallways to protestors fighting in the streets, from workers donning bulletproof vests while dismantling Confederate monuments to congressmen being shot at baseball practice, hatred’s tide has seemingly risen again.

UMD itself was taken by the current in the early hours of May 20, when 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, a Bowie State senior, was fatally stabbed, allegedly by a then-UMD student 
who had once joined a racist group on Facebook.

“Great streams are not easily turned from channels, worn deep in the course of ages,” said the abolitionist and Maryland native Frederick Douglass, whose statue watches over Hornbake Plaza. “They may sometimes rise in quiet and stately majesty, and inundate the land, refreshing and fertilizing the earth with their mysterious properties. They may also rise in wrath and fury, and bear away, on their angry waves, the accumulated wealth of years of toil and hardship.”

The events of recent months have prompted concerned conversations in office corridors; debates online and in newspaper columns; pensive commutes to and from work.

Terp reached out to people from across the spectrum of our community—faculty, staff, students and alumni—and asked for their thoughts on hate in America and on college campuses, and how institutions and individuals can find a path forward. Read the transcripts of our interviews by clicking on the name of each Terp below.

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

Hate is now becoming more visible, and the responses to the hate are making it seem more prevalent. It doesn’t seem that as a nation we’re trying to combat hate in the same way, or that we’re making as much progress as we did previously during the civil rights movement. I feel like back then, people engaged in actions and there were results. But now I feel like we’re doing the same thing, trying to make progress happen, but change isn’t occurring.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I feel like hate-related incidents have taken place because people feel more comfortable. Unfortunately, I feel that the new presidency has brought out a lot of things, and on top of that, when people don’t see consequences being put in place to fight hate, people try to test the waters. The more room you have to be hateful without something negative happening to you in response, the more likely you are to do it even more.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

In terms of history, it’s great that they changed the stadium name because now people can see that the university, in some form, is trying to make an effort, but I still feel like it took entirely too long. For history’s sake and for reading about in the textbook, it looks great. As far as the actions of those on campus, I feel like it did nothing. Some people are highly upset that they changed the name to begin with. So with that being said, you can kind of see that those attitudes toward people of color are still there. It took a very long time to change the name of Byrd Stadium. Attitude-wise, I don’t think changing the stadium name or adding a statue does anything for those on campus who feel negatively toward people of color.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

I think as an institution, the key is getting policies in place, because that’s what drives the campus and campus action. We’ve been talking about developing a definition of hate speech and determining consequences for those who use hate speech, and then, beyond just policy, creating spaces where people can feel comfortable to combat hate. Putting more minority professors in high academic positions—not just graduate students, but tenured professors. It says something when people see people who look like them, or for those who represent the LGBTQIA community, having someone who is like them in these positions. It makes people feel more comfortable in the space.

And on a broader scale—not just within the University of Maryland—maybe we should be working with other schools, such as within the Big Ten. Maybe we should be reaching out to them and instead of just being reactive on our own campuses, trying to be proactive with other communities, because this is a national issue.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

It’s all about being open-minded. The University of Maryland is supposed to be a diverse campus with people of multiple ideas and people from different backgrounds. I think it’s really about stepping outside of your comfort zone to make those connections. Find the way you and someone from a different area and background have common ground. Everyone has something you can relate to, and if we all tried relating to each other more often, we wouldn’t be so separated by stereotypes or previous incidents. For me, being an African-American student on this campus, it could mean supporting the Latino Student Union, or even going with someone who has completely opposite views from me to their event and kind of seeing what their views are and why they think that way. I think that can, in some sense, make you feel safer, if you seek to understand instead of combat. Everyone can do that, no matter who you are. Talking to the person in your classroom, getting that dialogue going, even in the cafeteria. That can make a big difference.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I believe that hate never takes a back seat. It’s always in existence and in operation; whether people act on it is a different story. We live in a time where we are very connected globally, where we do not have to depend on the news at 5 and 6 or 11 to give us stories. We get them instantaneously in our hands on our iPods and iPads and iPhones, which makes it appear that hate is a new thing, or that it is more significant or prominent than it has ever been. The reality is it’s always existed, and it’s always reared its ugly head. Now we’re just hearing all of it in real time. Before, we’d hear about three or four incidents, just depending on the result. Now we’re hearing about all of it. Everybody thinks it’s on the rise, but I think we’re being awakened to the fact that it’s significant in this country and in the world. So you can make a decision about who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do now that you know that it’s always been at hand. And is it excessive? The more people know about it— some people take the liberty to join in on one side or the other. That choice has always been there as well.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

Fear is at the root of all of it, and I think the fact that it’s happening all over college campuses and in different communities demonstrates that colleges and universities are microcosms of what’s happening in the rest of society; they are a snapshot of what’s going on all around. People operate out of fear, and a lot of times they respond in kind, with hate on hate, and that is not going to fix the issue. It’s just going to exacerbate it. But many people do not know how to respond in love; they don’t know what that looks like. They forget the teachings of many who have come before on how to respond not with hate, but with love, and with peace and communicating, articulating, speaking our hearts and other people responding and respecting that that is our position and that is what we feel. People don’t have the courage to respond to hate with the opposite. Love never fails. We live in a society that feels like they have a right to voice an opinion about whatever everybody else is doing. The reality is you need to stand up and choose who you want to be in the world, instead of responding to the hate. To me, hate only comes to steal, kill and destroy, and it wants you to respond in kind. Responding in kind is a self-destructive response.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

The reality is they should have an impact on the campus. A culture of diversity and inclusion is desired at Maryland. For many, many years, those who were part of our diversity were never acknowledged. This is not a black-white issue. What people need to understand: You can’t just stand up and say, “Let’s build a monument for Frederick Douglass.” That took years to make happen. People think these things are in response to recent incidents of hate, because perception is reality to a lot of people. If they’re operating from a place of hate, their subjective view is going to be filtered and informed by that hate. These individuals—Parren Mitchell and others—had significant contributions, not just to the University of Maryland or the state, but to our nation, and why shouldn’t we be naming buildings after them? We should be proud of any member of our community who stood up against hate, who stood up for what we as a university are standing up for. In order to change a culture, you can’t just talk about it. There has to be action. So removing the name from the stadium is a part of taking action. Even though this gentleman (Byrd) had a lot to do with the building of the University of Maryland, he was a staunch advocate of segregation. And even when there was a legal decision to integrate public schools, he continued to deny admission to people of color. When reviewing history, it is noted the University of Maryland did not allow people of color on campus; the state of Maryland would pay for people of color to go to other universities. So at the end of the day, if you’re going to change from a segregation mindset to one of inclusion and diversity, then you have to remove the symbols of segregation, because otherwise it just looks like you’re talking out the side of your neck.

So many people don’t think for themselves, or take a moment and take a deep breath and think there’s no way they could have decided last week to put the statue up and the statue was there. Some don't think or ask about the actual process. They don’t ask. So when you’re going to make a decision about what’s going on based on where you stand without doing any investigating, believing the last thing you read on Twitter or the first thing you read on Facebook, rather than checking it out for yourself, you diminish your ability to think intelligently and use wisdom.

And if you see beyond color and race, there are too many people that can be recognized at the University of Maryland—I can name many of them—it has nothing to do with their race, gender or sexual orientation. It’s about heart, and what they chose to do as a result of coming to this university. It is not about race. And we make it about race, and if we don’t have leaders who are courageous to stand up and say, this is unacceptable. This energy we’re dealing with right now? I believe this is the same energy they dealt with before the Civil War and again before the civil rights movement. People need to remember what happened in those seasons: Love always prevailed. Good intentions for inclusion and diversity always prevailed.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

As an institution, a lot of what we’re now doing, we have the Office of Diversity and Inclusion—we just appointed someone to head that, the Office of Undergraduate Studies held brown-bag luncheon meetings to have discussions about this subject with staff and students over the summer. All of us can take the time to communicate with one other with the same intentions: to fight hate and create a campus secure in its diversity. When we come with different intentions, sometimes it creates chaos. But the intention of this university—which is going to be spoken over and over again, which is going to be addressed at orientation, which is going to be carried out in dormitory living, which is going to be carried out consistently—when that intention is spoken and action is taken when it is compromised intentionally, people connected in any way to this university will get the message. The majority of people on this campus want to live in a community that is indicative of the society in which it resides. We live in a very diverse culture. That is not going to change. We have a Constitution. That’s not going to change.

We’ve got another generation coming up that has been used to this diversity and inclusion. Over every spectrum, they’re having conversations about labels, and how they are perceived and labeled and put in a box. This is a shaking-up season. It’s ugly, the way it’s showing its head, but when has a shaking-up not been tough? We grow and we learn from adversity. We are a much better society irrespective of what we see going on right now. We are so much better than we were 50, 60 years ago. There was no need to “make America great again.” America is, has been and always will be great. And the minute we stop this rhetoric on who’s better and who’s not—who deserves to be here and who does not—when we humble ourselves as a great nation and resist the evil of division, we overcome and are successful because a nation divided against itself cannot stand.

This university will speak its intentions and will follow up with action. We know how to listen to you. We want you to speak and to be heard. There will be more conversations. But we are going to follow our intention with our actions. It’s not going to be just in word, but also in deeds.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

Whatever you want in this world, you’ve got to represent it yourself. Because the life you build, you build from the inside out. Every single person walking on that campus, working on that campus, teaching on that campus has to buy into and support the culture of diversity and inclusion, and act in support of the culture, or this may not be the best fit for them.

We want to hear you, even if you think your opinion is controversial. But it’s yours, and we respect it. But respect is not just what you communicate, it’s in what you do. Respect is and should be mutual. And because I am different in any way—this is the beautiful thing—there ain’t nobody on this planet like me. Or like you. I am the only person born to Sam and Grace Alexander on May 11, 1958. And when people start to understand that they came here for a reason, that there is purpose in their life, the thing of it is, we come here with free will. We can use our intention for good, or we can use it for evil. It matters not the choice, because we’re going to reap our intention. The minute that we understand that division only comes to tear us up, it doesn’t come to strengthen an already strong nation.

Each of us, every single solitary soul that has something to do with the University of Maryland, has to understand what our intention is as a university and ask themselves: What can I do to ensure that this intention is carried out? Is there anything in me or in how I function that will go against this? When I see something that is completely contrary to what the intention is, it is my responsibility to speak up and say something. Just like if you go to the airport, and they say if you see a suspicious package, report it. Or if there’s someone in my family doing something that goes against the family plan, trust and believe that it will be addressed. We respect one another in this house. You do not call your brother or your sister that name. This is how we were raised. That was the family plan. In the family plan of the University of Maryland, we all support diversity and inclusion. Maybe we’re not all good at it, maybe we ought to listen more. Maybe we can better understand where a person is coming from. When a woman says, every time my husband and son leave my house, I’m afraid they may not come back alive because they got pulled over by a cop. My brother is a cop. I know most cops on this planet are good, but that doesn’t mean 100 percent of them are. So we need to understand as a society there are certain things that we cannot stand for, and we need to start in our communities. In this case, we have to start in the Terp community. I think we are. I think that is the intention from our president, our provost, from the University of Maryland System, from our governor. The majority of us are on the same page. We just have to figure out how to do it well while respecting and loving one another.

I don’t want to be like everybody else. But the one thing I won’t do is decide if I am better than or superior to or more worthy than any other person. But if we can get that piece, oh, my gosh. I have two nieces at the University of Maryland. My sister and I and two cousins went there. The love that people have for that university is not going to fail. We cannot let hate get the upper hand. The only thing that hate wants is for us to respond in kind. That has never proven to be a successful tactic.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I would say that the articulation of hate (is on the rise)—little bit different than hate itself. The willingness of folks to say and do hateful things, whereas they might have thought it better for themselves to bite their tongue, or not say anything or moderate their talk and actions. Now, they feel it’s perfectly all right to say things. And do things, most importantly, which are despicable.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

We have only two truly integrated institutions in our society: the army and colleges. That’s it. Housing—segregated. Churches—segregated. Go down the list of other institutions. There are only two places.

The army is a very disciplined organization. The ability to control such incidents is done through the usual means of discipline, which are severe, and everyone knows what they are. Usually, but not always, they are successful.

Universities are just the opposite. We’re undisciplined because we are committed to the principle of free speech and encourage the free circulation of ideas. And I would say, precisely for that reason (we are vulnerable). Here you have an institution that’s kind of a unicorn of in American life. It’s one of the few that in fact is integrated. Integration is not only there, for the most part it is encouraged, and hence it becomes a target for this kind of activity.

In the past few years, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

I think a very positive (impact). I can talk with greater authority on the Frederick Douglass statue. The thing that is most endearing to me is to see students and other visitors come up to that statue, bring their parents to that statue. It’s amazing how many people don’t know who Frederick Douglass is, but it’s amazing also that people do.

This was a segregated campus in people’s lifetimes. Students may not know that, but their parents and certainly their grandparents know it. This is a place that black people literally could not set foot on and there is Frederick Douglass in a central place. There is Parren Mitchell, the leader of integration in the state. There is a recognition that Curley Byrd, for all of the good things that he did, was deeply committed to maintaining UMD as a segregated campus at a time when many people saw the handwriting on the wall.

That recognition is crucial. You’re not going to reverse the past, you’re not going to reverse the hurts of the past, but you can recognize them and address it. And that’s what we’ve done. We should be proud of that.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

The things that we are doing are exactly correct. President Loh should be commended, as should others in the administration. Their commitment is important for the same reason that Curley Byrd’s opposition to integration was important.

At every turn, addressing the need for brotherly love is crucial. We speak of this in our introduction of new students to the campus. We speak of this when we look at Frederick Douglass’ presence and his words, etched literally into the physical body of the campus. That’s who we are. You think of the normal functions of the university, and at every point you can make the case that our mantra is equality.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

The student leaders within the dormitories have to lay out the rules of what’s possible to do and what’s not possible to do, and at that time you also say, “Here’s who we are. You don’t agree with it, this might be a good time to check out. You do agree with it, let’s find ways to celebrate it.”

And the same thing should happen in classrooms. I regularly tell my students there are a couple of rules. Among them is one of language. Language can be hurtful. I teach a class on slavery, and I tell them, “This is a subject that is difficult for a lot of people, and the language of slavery itself is difficult. Here are the bounds.”

You try to do it at both ends. It’s not just the students or the general population, but chairs have to announce this to their departments, deans have to announce this to their department chairs, you go up at every turn. You have to build this into a living, breathing essence of the university.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

It’s a complicated question. Unfortunately, there are always going to be those individuals who hate or discriminate against others. I don’t know if hate is on the rise or if it is being reported on more.

Regardless, I do believe in a trickle-down effect of permissibility. When figureheads say certain things, their words hold weight, and they are sending a message to people—whether they intend to or not. If the message is one of hate and discrimination, then it sends a message that hate and acts of violence are acceptable. There is something to be said about the responsibility of holding public office. Even as clergy, when we say or do something, people are looking and it can give a kind of permission. We have to be careful of how we talk and how we act, especially with how we treat others.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

A college campus is almost utopic in a way, ideally, a place where people are coming to learn, discover themselves and try new things. There’s really such opportunity for growth, not just academically but also as a person and we find that the general feel on campus is one where people are open to new concepts and ideas.

At the same time, a college campus in many ways is like a microcosm of the society around it. At the end of the day, people are people and they are coming with their baggage and their upbringing. If someone was raised to hate someone of a different faith or of a different race, while I’d like to think that they would come to college and experience an awakening and let go of those shackles, unfortunately, human beings don’t always change that quickly.

I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also am realistic. There are people who commit murders in churches and kindergartens. People who are sick or ill or see the world in a twisted view. Unfortunately, hate-related incidents can happen anywhere.

In the past few years, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

I think those efforts coupled with other efforts can make a difference. There’s a lot to be said about how we educate and create cultural change. Every four or five years, the population changes on campus. We think about this here at Maryland Hillel—the importance of stories of origin surrounding changes so the incoming students both feel connected and also understand why things are the way they are.

Education around change and narratives are powerful, and I wonder how much of that story is being shared with the incoming students and how it is talked about. The impact can grow out of an understanding of the context surrounding the decision to install a statue of Frederick Douglass. Someone walking by could think, “Oh great, there’s a statue of Frederick Douglass,” but is the story being told on the campus tour? That would be powerful.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

Through the interfaith chaplaincy, we’ve been doing monthly healing services, which began with the memorial service that we all participated in right after Lt. Collins’ murder. It was a huge turnout. People were coming out to be together around this tragic event. It is important for us to create a spiritual, religious space for those who need that to heal, reflect and gather together.

I appreciate the consistency and transparency I have observed in the university emails—from sharing the process for choosing the cultural diversity officer, to outlining steps the administration is going to take. It sends a message that they are on it and they are making sure the campus community is aware of what’s happening. There’s a lot of healing we have to do, and we don’t want to become complacent. We have to keep talking even when it’s painful and complicated.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

In the Jewish tradition, we have something called lashon hara, which literally means “the evil tongue.” It connects to the idea of gossip. It’s not just about, “Did you hear about so and so,” it’s really about talking ill of other people. The rabbis even go as far as to say one should not even praise a person to his enemy since this also invites lashon hara.

Every space we are in is sacred and we therefore need to be looking at the way we talk about people and to people and how we treat each other. We need to be careful with the words we choose—ensuring that we are inclusive in our language and in our actions of everyone, regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Each person is created in the divine image, and we therefore have to really act that way all the time. It means not joining in when you hear people talk ill of someone else. Those are the small things we each can do that can make an impact on the culture of our Terp community.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

It’s rather hard not to, because there are so many incidents that are just ugly. But, deep down inside, it feels like we’re living in a society where people feel like they have more permission to say and do some of the things that they were thinking about and wanting to do all along. While it seems hate is on the rise, it may actually be that civility is on the decline.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I think there’s just a fear in our country in particular, and in some cases around the world, that the status quo is changing and I think that’s unnerving to people. There are lots of people who feel entitled. They feel like they’ve earned this entitlement and privilege. In some cases, they think the world belongs to them. I would actually say it’s threatening to them to realize that that is not necessarily the case.

All of us are entitled to some of the same things, and that’s unsettling and may even create a sense of fear in people who sense that their world is changing. Change is a scary thing, especially if you’re not sure how the change will affect you. As a result, some people react in very hateful ways.

In the past few years, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

I think it’s important for people to see who you want to be and how you view yourself. On a college campus, there have to be some visible evidences of that. Words are important, but actions are even more important. And when you walk onto a campus at a place like Maryland and you see visible representation of the things that we think are important, I think that really makes a statement.

I work with students all the time who are searching for colleges and searching for their home for the next four years, and while education is the central part of that, also important is the sense of community that they want to have. So, I think it’s important for people to understand who we are purporting to be as a community, so that students know this is a place that’s going to be comfortable for them and a place where they want to live, learn and grow. When you see representations like those you mention, it says, “These are the things that are important for us, these are the things we stand for as an institution.”

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

I think we have to take a really strong stand and say what’s important to us, what our values are as an institution and what we will accept as a part of our community. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for everybody. There absolutely is a place for people with disparate ideas, but what’s important is how those ideas are articulated.

We wouldn’t be a good institution if we were trying to quiet differing opinions and voices, but we have to make a very strong statement and say, “We are a place that values different ideas, different thoughts and different beliefs but they have to be expressed in a way that shows respect for everybody—even those who disagree with you, even those who have ideas that you think are horrible ideas.” This has to be a place where you can have that kind of discourse.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

Show respect. I think it’s that simple. That’s all it is, is showing decent human respect for people and engaging in conversation with those people. I know that it’s difficult to have conversations with people who believe things that are drastically different than what you believe, but as an institution, we have to say that’s important. That’s how you learn and grow.

If I’m only talking to people who believe the same things that I do, then I don’t change, I don’t open my mind, I don’t experience anything different, and I think this has to be a place where it’s encouraged for people to have those kinds of conversations. But the absolute, bottom line, minimum requirement should be that we have to show respect for one another. The University of Maryland has to be a place that refuses to tolerate hate and disrespect.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I don’t believe hate is on the rise. I think this has already been in existence. I just believe that now, instead of covert forms of racism, they’re just more overt. Folks say that Donald Trump and this administration allow folks to feel more comfortable [expressing their hate]. That might be the case, but I just feel like in general people are feeling more comfortable to share their real thoughts. I do believe that the current political climate is one of the catalysts to share these ideas and actions. I think there are also missteps on campus in response to hate or hate crimes. They’re not handled well. There’s no action around it—there aren’t even restorative practices around it, so the response to that makes it seem that it’s okay and that it could happen again.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I think these kinds of hateful actions and feelings have always been in existence, but now we’re just hearing more about it. The Internet is such a great way of organizing and becoming aware. Whether it’s from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or something else, news spreads really quickly. So I feel that organizing is on the rise. Now, as soon as people see something, they can record it or go on Twitter and write a tweet right as it happens. We’re more connected and more aware. People are feeling more comfortable saying, “I cannot believe this is happening,” so they’re doing more organizing to spread the word.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

Definitely. One of the first steps that needs to happen is recognizing the faults in the past and creating something physical, like a marker, that says, “This is our history and this is the direction that we’re moving.” Just changing a building name or installing a statue is not enough. There needs to be constant education and conversation, and I don’t know the status of that currently. I don’t know if there’s even a sign that says, “This used to be named Byrd Stadium,” and that explains why it was changed. Folks who come here 10 years from now are just going to know it as Maryland Stadium. If the institution is not sharing this history, maybe as part of orientation, then it’s not enough. The university needs to own its history, because it needs to say what direction it wants to move in. I really do believe the past dictates where the present is and also the direction of the future. I think that people will take these changes more seriously and believe that they're intentional if there were some proactive movement to continue this dialogue.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

Something as simple as installing a plaque at Maryland Stadium or the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building to explain why its name was changed, or to even say, “Go online to read more about this,” would be one way to recognize that this didn’t come out of nowhere. The university needs to highlight the grassroots and student-led movements around these actions. These actions did not happen overnight. There was years and years of action and conversation around it, so I think that highlighting that and focusing on that would be a great idea. Bringing it up again even when we’re not talking about it would be a great way of saying, “We haven’t forgotten.” How can we make sure we don’t forget? Maybe by talking about it at orientation or during first-year experiences.

I know that it was probably well-intended for President Loh to create diversity task forces. I thought he really wanted to listen to the students. Unfortunately, the feedback from that task force was not positive. I think the task forces were created to listen to the students, but it didn’t end up being a space where the students felt like they were being listened to. Students I’ve interacted with felt like they didn’t even have the chance to speak and share any of their ideas. If you’re going to create these task forces, in what ways are students going to feel like they’re listened to and validated but also see progress toward implementing some of their ideas? I feel like transparency would be really huge. The chief diversity officer search was messy. We all got an email after about a month of not hearing any updates. The email said, “We’re actually moving in another direction, we’re hiring this person on campus.” Students are not happy about that. I think students need to be involved in processes. If it was a failed search, then let us know it was a failed search. Staff, faculty and students had the chance to be part of this process. Three people were brought to campus for listening sessions; a lot of students, faculty and staff went to those, so one way of respecting that time and energy would be to say, “We’ve gathered all of your thoughts, thank you so much,” and then recognize and acknowledge that maybe these weren’t the strongest candidates. There are still so many questions people are asking because they have no idea what happened on that final step. So I think that one way to make the campus feel inclusive is to see if students even feel like they’re welcomed. In these instances, they don’t feel like they’re being paid attention to. They’re dedicating a lot of their time and energy, and then if it just goes to waste, they wonder, “Why am I even trying? Why do I even want to be on this campus? I don’t even feel like I have a sense of belonging.”

What can every member of the Terp community do?

On a student level, I feel like there is a lot of organizing that has already been done. Sixty-four demands were submitted. Speaking as a staff member who’s seen those 64 demands, it’s overwhelming as an institution to receive that and be like, “Where do we start with this?” I personally think it didn’t have to be 64, but I understand where the students are coming from.

Offices like MICA, ODI, the LGBT Equity Center, Nyumburu, across the board—those offices are already at capacity and severely underfunded, so I think that we need resources for students to feel like they actually have space that feels safe for them. College is often the first place that people get involved in diversity issues or even exposed to issues in general, so the institution needs to create appropriate learning environments. I think that dedicating resources to issues would be really important, but I don’t think money solves it. I think we need to consider how this work goes across the board. If everyone were to do social justice work, or just even diversity and inclusion work, and not only leave that task to the diversity offices, that would be really helpful. Even just putting up a sign that says, “I support undocumented students.” They don’t have to necessarily know all of the laws or policies, but if staff and faculty were to even know where the resources were, to have that initiative to know how to direct students, that might be helpful.

Critical reflection is necessary. It is important for students to recognize their identities and intersections of identities, especially where they have privilege. All issues surrounding diversity and inclusion are connected. It is now a matter of how students engage with these issues, educate themselves on history and patterns of exclusion, discrimination, and violence, and understand how they can disrupt systems of oppression. This all requires patience, vulnerability and compassion.

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I would say yes. Definitely during the presidential campaign you saw a lot of hate being spread, on campus, off campus. Whether it’s social media or the news, I definitely think there’s a rise of hate in the world.

I remember last semester, the day after President Trump was elected. I was a psychology major for my undergrad and was in a lot of child development classes, and there were several students who worked at daycares who had the students they were chaperoning and in charge of coming to them who were immigrants scared that they would be deported. They were talking about children 5, 6 or 7 years old. I’m amazed that they’re that up to date with this kind of information, but at the same time, it’s sad that they’re actually fearful of something like this happening.

The second part is, I guess, seeing the amount of people who truly feel and support that certain types of immigrants should not be allowed into the contrary, that’s pretty shocking based on what our values and beliefs should be as a country.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

The thing that kind of comes to mind is social media. For example, there’s a lot of news clips of people going back to this travel ban in the past, people drastically supporting it, people against it—and seeing that kind of energy is definitely something that plays a part.

Also with social media, it’s easy to take jokes too far. You have people saying, “Wow, that’s a really funny joke—I’m supporting that.” And you have people saying, “That’s a really hurtful joke—I’m not supporting it.” There’s a lot of negative energy and attention surrounding these topics, and now with the media, things get more distributed and exposed. It’s reaching more audiences now.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

Yes, to some degree. When I say that, especially for African Americans on campus you feel like the unity—when all African Americans and people of color… are all going to these types of protests on the campus, you instantly feel that unity there.

When the name on the stadium was changed, a lot of students felt like their voices were being heard, so that’s definitely something that uplifted everyone. But I still feel like at this stage in life different people pay attention to different things that are more relevant to their lives. So while there are some people who might be excited the name is changed, they might not internalize that, they might be just like, “Oh, OK, now it’s Maryland stadium, not Byrd Stadium, cool.” Or “Art-Soc got a new name, cool.” Some people will internalize it more, that’s awesome, the name is changed, we got that.

I think it’s good, I think it shows this campus is trying to become more diverse at every step of the way by looking back and understanding why historically we should change the name of the stadium.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

I’m pretty sure when they do orientation for freshman students or transfer students coming to the campus for the first time they have to do some online modules. I’m pretty sure they have a drinking one, and a sexual assault one, and I hope they have a hate-bias one. I think the best thing that the university can do since it’s an academic environment is to educate. The fact that a lot of people fought and died for the right of free speech doesn’t necessarily mean people should go around saying hateful things just because they have this right to freedom of speech. I think it is important for people to have their own different opinions and their own identities but it’s also important to—I don’t want to say “tolerate” because that’s a horrible word—but to be able to empathize with and understand people from different backgrounds versus just assuming things and stereotyping. We need to really drive home the fact that free speech is really important and it’s awesome to have free speech, but there’s a fine line to when it goes too far and crosses a line.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

As an RA what comes to mind is “Leave No Terp Behind.” When people go out to celebrate, it’s kind of a “if you go out as a group, come back as a group” kind of thing. But, you know, just don’t be a bystander. If they see something going on, although it might be intimidating to step up, they should step up. Even if it’s with their inner peer group and certain members are leaning toward hate speech or doing something inappropriate—although it might be awkward because that’s your friend—stepping up whenever there’s an opportunity. And if you can’t in that moment, find a way to learn from it, like, “Ok, although I wasn’t able to step up in that moment, but that situation that’s going on was wrong, and moving forward I’ll make it my personal mission to try to step up.”

For example, and hopefully this doesn’t happen on campus, let’s say some people are eating on campus, and someone goes on their phone, goes to Twitter, and sees a hateful racial page or something like that, and they’re reading the joke and laughing about it. Hopefully someone in the circle could say, Hey guys, although that might appear funny that’s hateful and hurtful. One, we probably don’t want to be entertaining ideas like this, and two, there are a lot of diverse people eating in this area with us, and if one were to overhear it they would instantly assume that we support these ideas when we hopefully and typically don’t. Although it sounds like a “just say no to drugs” kind of message, it’s what we need to do. [/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

If you look at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is probably the main source to look at hate groups and hate crimes, you see that it’s definitely been increasing, even slightly before Trump was elected, but you’ve definitely seen huge spikes since Trump was elected last fall.

Hate crimes are definitely on the rise, and obviously blacks have traditionally been targets of those hate crimes. However, the group that’s mostly targeted currently are Muslims or people who people think are Muslims. Often it becomes regional or context-specific. If you’re in the Southwest, then Mexicans or people who others think are Mexicans, become targeted. And I keep saying, “Think,” because oftentimes we really don’t know what a person’s racial or ethnic background actually is.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

The assumption that we make about college campuses being these bastions of liberal progressiveness simply doesn’t hold up. There are people on college campuses across the political spectrum who have an array of beliefs and attitudes about race, gender, sexual orientation and immigration. Part of it is that our assumption is a bit misguided because of the expectation or the narrative that we hear that people who are more educated are more liberal and progressive. While on average that’s true, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who have various political orientations.

The other thing that happens on college campuses is people’s beliefs are challenged, people’s beliefs are critiqued. People who come to campus with beliefs rooted in prejudice, rooted in the mistreatment of people, rooted in thinking certain groups are inferior or superior—when they have those beliefs challenged, it leads to them reacting a particular way. That could be something benign, like tending to avoid a group of people, all the way up to overt forms of ethnoviolence like what we saw between (alleged perpetrator) Sean Urbanski and Lt. Richard Collins.

I’ve been fortunate to attend several different universities, to work at different universities, to lecture at different universities, and I’ve never felt more comfortable being on a college campus than being at the University of Maryland. With that being said, that should tell us something. If I feel most comfortable on a campus where a hate crime ensued, where a white man killed a black man, what is that really saying about our college campuses? Depending on the student you ask, depending on the faculty member or staff member you ask, that will dictate the response you get. I interact with students on a regular basis who don’t feel that comfortable on this campus.

If people are going to engage in hate crimes, why wouldn’t it be in a setting that they feel that they are losing, that they feel they don’t control? Here, it’s much more pluralistic, people are able to come and go as they please. For people who are used to different forms of segregation and certain forms of isolation from racial minorities, a place like University of Maryland is a threat to them.

In the past few years, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

Symbolic and cultural changes matter. I would never say that they don’t. However, they don’t operate to actually change the rules and regulations that are in place. We could even think about the election of President Obama—that was a huge symbolic and cultural shift. But if policy changes don’t come along with that, if those things don’t happen, then they are simply symbols.

What students on campus have been pushing for is more policies that they feel protect their rights, their civil and human rights, as well as their social rights, which is something we don’t talk a lot about. That can be about their ability to voice their opinions, to really implement the First Amendment in a way that they feel that you can love a country and at the same time critique it, and who has the right to do that, who has the social right to do that? Oftentimes, racial minorities are perceived that they shouldn’t have the social right to do that, that you should just be fine that you just happen to be on campus. Well, tell that to the black student from Prince George’s County that had a 3.9 (GPA) in high school. She deserves to be here. So telling her that she should just be thankful for being here is part of the problem.

On the other end of the spectrum, people who want to preserve the same privileges and benefit that they’ve had, they view these symbolic changes as further reducing their ability to maintain their privilege. They view things as a zero-sum game.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

When incidents happen, that’s normally when we try to do something about it. And oftentimes that could be trying to mitigate it, trying to reduce it, trying to hold it in check, trying to act like it's not proliferating, or that it’s only isolated. When that happens, we miss what the focus should be. The focus should be, at that juncture, on the victim and the victims.

Hate crimes are meant to terrorize communities. So when Richard Collins was murdered, that incident terrorized an entire community on and off campus. Even personally, just the connections are uncanny. One of the vice presidents of Bowie State, his son and one of my sons are in the same classroom. The teacher across the hallway from my oldest son’s classroom, her son was friends with Richard Collins. The wife of the president of Bowie State sits across from me at church. Everywhere I go, on campus, off campus, in my neighborhood, at my kids’ school, at church, I get reminders of the terror and tragedy of this incident. For black people, we couldn’t just leave it at work, and I think not acknowledging that hate crimes terrorize communities, that they are systemic acts of violence, is extremely misguided by only looking at them in isolation.

Part of being proactive—and I think President Loh has done some of this—is putting a task force and a standing committee together that discusses how to handle these situations and also how we can better educate the campus community. Provost Rankin put together an initiative of workshops for faculty and staff to attend. I think that it is very important.

We really have to listen to students. I think that’s something as faculty and staff we don’t do enough. We get up, we teach them, we talk to them, we talk over them, but oftentimes we don’t listen to them well. We are in the middle of a social movement, whether you want to call that the Black Lives Matter movement, something about immigration or the fight for human rights. Students today are going through something different than what people went through the past four decades, and unless we listen to them, we don’t really know what their concerns are.

The same way that we have a protocol if there is a terrorist attack or an active shooter on campus is the same way we should approach what we do when a hate crime occurs. Part of that is getting over the surprise that something like this happened. It’s been the main thing I’ve been telling people. From a sociological perspective, it doesn’t surprise me that this happened on Maryland’s campus. If white supremacists are going to try and reclaim a space, they will go to one of the most progressive campuses in the United States, and that is the University of Maryland.

We also have to think about ways to address things organizationally. There was a noose found in a fraternity house recently. When this noose was found, the byline that came out was, “We don’t know who put it up, so we don’t have anyone to hold accountable for it.” Sure you do—the noose was found in a fraternity house. Does that mean that a majority of them did it? Probably not, but I guarantee you either somebody they knew or one of them did, because it was there. Instead of focusing on incidents at an individual level, we need to hold groups and groups of people accountable. Does that mean suspending or expelling the fraternity? No, what it could mean is potentially telling them they can’t have social events for a semester or they have to go through some anti-prejudice or anti-bias training. Organizations started doing this around sexual assault and rape, and I think the same thing can be done around hate crimes.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

First, we have to realize and admit to ourselves that hate crimes are on the rise and that people are simply not making this up. While these may be individual acts that people engage in, they have collective, systemic and organizational consequences that terrorize an entire community. It is proliferating though the campus community.

The second thing is to reach out to experts and sources that can help people better understand why the hate exists, and to realize hate that people are coming with isn’t necessarily just nestled in certain individuals who are bad. Everything around us, from our family settings to our school settings, to the media, to work, plays a role in us thinking about society in a particular way.

Then we have to determine what our own biases are. For some people, it’s not about race. It could be about gender, it could be about sexual orientation, it could be about religion, it could be about anything. All of us have them. Figure out what they are, figure out why they exist in you, try to find the source and then try to figure out how you can rectify it and hold it in check.

The Terp community can have conversations with other people. This is extremely important across race and class divides. As a black man, there are certain tables I will never sit at, and some of my white colleagues do have the ability to sit at. In that regard, they have to be the ones to speak up and speak out and say, “You actually shouldn’t say that,” or, “You shouldn’t actually think that.” When I’m with my buddies and they say something that is often centered around gender and sexism, I say, “Hey, that’s not cool. Don’t say that around me.” You can protect your own setting because oftentimes what happens in private settings go unchecked.

I don’t even care what the courts decided about this (murder) not being a hate crime. It’s very clear that it was, and it’s very clear that (Urbanski) had a track record of engaging in certain types of acts, whether that be verbally or online, that expressed anti-black sentiments. That means he’s probably done this in settings with friends and family. Your silence becomes your acceptance, and when you don’t say anything or you laugh at it, people who think that way, and people who will go to the next level in doing something to someone, feel empowered. [/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I don’t know if I would say it was on the rise, but it was always there. And I think there have been moments when it’s been suppressed. I think we went through a period where the visceral feelings that we see and hear from the actions of a few were submerged and below the surface, for a while, which helped us forget that it even existed. But, unfortunately, I don’t believe it was ever completely gone.

Now I think the hate is just rising above the surface, and some people have become a little bit more emboldened in terms of how they always felt. Maybe at one point they felt like they were a minority, so they didn’t feel they could come forward openly and they just kept their beliefs to themselves or within a smaller group. I think also with the use of the Internet, people can hide behind their screens and spew out hateful comments behind a veil of anonymity. So, yes, I do think that hatred has always been here, however, it’s just becoming more visible.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I think it’s a combination of factors. Students come to campus reflecting what they were taught at home and in their communities. They may have heard frustrations from their families or from their parents about economic conditions and opportunity issues in the country. Some students may have come from a very homogeneous background, and being on a college campus is the first time they’re living and existing in a more heterogeneous population. Now they’re seeing that there are people who don’t look like them or who are different from them, but who are also wanting to obtain the same types of opportunities. Some students may perceive this new reality to be frustrating because they were taught that these opportunities were their entitlements and not earned benefits. Now they see that they’re not necessarily entitled, that they have to work for those opportunities, just like the next student who may look differently, speak differently, or have different beliefs and backgrounds. So when you bring all that together some students may get frustrated; it’s a conflict between what they have been taught to believe and the reality of what they are now facing. Everything kind of implodes upon itself when people think they should have certain things, when certain things should be certain ways, and when that doesn’t happen.

Overall, students and maybe even non-students on college campuses seem to be experiencing more negativities, which breeds a certain level of anger and hatred, because they think, “My condition or my situation is not because of things that I’ve done or decisions I should have made differently.” Instead, they point the finger and say, “It’s because of you, you took this opportunity away from me,” or “You have inhibited me from being able to do certain things,” or whatever ways that they can rationalize. Also, we are lacking a certain level of communication, understanding and empathy. I believe that many of us are becoming more and more disconnected from each other on just a basic human level and that creates an opportunity to thrust us in a vicious cycle of emotional apathy, resentment and hatred.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African-American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

On a surface level. I think many may not understand the profound rationale behind those gestures. I call them symbolic gestures because on the surface it does look better, but I don’t think many of us can really appreciate why those things have been changed. I’m not saying those gestures shouldn’t be done, but I think that’s exactly what they are: gestures. They don’t necessarily tap in a profound way into some of the issues with race, the issues with gender, the LGBTQ issues and all the historical issues and issues of today that we face on this campus. Unfortunately, these symbolic gestures cannot silence hateful viewpoints that we still see and hear.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

I believe the university should have a very strict no-tolerance atmosphere. When hateful actions or words are done and said on campus, they should not be overlooked. Even though hate speech is seen as a right and at times protected under the First Amendment, I don’t think hateful utterances should be overlooked because these words can easily transition to hateful actions. When hate speech is not openly addressed, it appears as if this type of speech is tolerated on this campus, and as a result you have some students who feel very vulnerable. After the stabbing of Richard Collins, one black student said to me, “I’m afraid to walk on campus now.” That’s a very real and sad reality. I’ve also thought twice about walking on campus now, because there’s a vulnerability and real apprehension that you feel as a black person.

The institutional steps to fighting hate and creating a safer campus are highly dependent on the timing of a strong and united response from all levels of the university. For example, in a situation where there’s a noose hanging or (racially offensive) chalk writings, everyone on campus should know that these actions are not tolerated. There is an opportunity to add more speech to the conversation, to increase resources for student counseling and to educate and raise awareness about bigotry and its history.

Additionally, the university can step up their efforts to recruit and retain diverse faculty, administrators and students. It is essential that all students see and interact with a campus community that reflects the demographics of this county.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

I think as much as possible, communicating with each other. And not just in response to a situation, but having forums of communication beforehand. A lot took place in reaction to Richard Collins’ homicide. It should be something that we do continuously, before something happens. We need spaces where people feel safe to communicate, whether in a forum or small group setting.

I keep my door open for students, and I tell them, “If you want to talk with me, feel free,” because I know that I’m one of few faculty who look like them, so sometimes they feel a little bit safer or more comfortable talking to me. It’s important to have those kinds of opportunities where people can have clear, open communication and express what they’re feeling before something happens. It’s good that we do it afterward, but if we do it beforehand maybe we can prevent it from escalating to a point where we have something that was as tragic as what happened in May.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

That’s a tough question. From my immediate space, I feel that it is. For people of color, we’ve always been at the receiving end of a lot of negative perceptions in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexuality, among other things, right? But I think that the climate is such at this point in time—especially in the United States—that it’s a free-for-all, that anything can be said, that people’s own positions or positionalities are disregarded, so hence people can say things to other people about their differences without being respectful. I don’t think it’s new, I think it’s always existed in different shapes and forms.

Being a child of the ’70s whose parents immigrated to San Francisco, Calif., from El Salvador in the late ’60s, I grew up in a historically liberal city. But on my last visit I was struck that there is a sense of hate and hate speech that I hadn’t seen in the Bay Area before. If that is happening there, where liberal ideas have always been promoted and respected, then to me that’s a good indicator of what’s going on in the nation and perhaps the world. Just in the three weeks I was there during the summer, there was a massacre at the UPS center, and reported cases of nooses as well, like we’ve had here on campus.

So I’ve been meditating and reflecting on this. All of a sudden, people feel like they can attack people verbally and physically. Worldwide, people are responding to what they see in the media, in terms of our new leaders, and the violence that is happening in the United States, and they’re observing and noting that the United States is a place that has generated violence around the world. Now, I come from El Salvador, which has been at the receiving end of U.S. interventions for many years. So this sentiment of U.S. superiority has already been perceived by the world and it is very hard for people right now to trust the U.S. I’m afraid many people don’t have a good image of the U.S. in the world. The promotion of violence and wars in the Middle East casts us in a really negative light as generators of hate and violence not only in our local spaces, but worldwide.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I think there are many unresolved issues on college campuses. I think that we’ve put Band-Aids on problems and issues on campus and in society, so there’s always been a need for dialogue around issues. On campuses, despite the fact that we have diversity initiatives, dialogues and town hall forums, we gather, we talk and that’s the end of it—as if the only thing that we are striving for is to have a discussion. Yet implementing something that will bring people together and change real-life situations often doesn’t happen. So some of us harbor misperceptions about others because of lack of information, lack of informed knowledge—and we end up projecting and not really dealing with the issues at hand.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

These are certainly important measures because we create landscapes of racism by having buildings named after racists or people who generate hate, like Byrd, like segregationists and all sorts of other people. If we invert that paradigm and start landscaping our university with figures that are more representative of the diversity of our country—Frederick Douglass; Parren Mitchell; and the man whose name is on this building, Juan Ramón Jiménez, the first Nobel literature prizewinner of Spanish descent—we also recognize the presence of Latinos and Hispanics and others in the United States. At least one third of the U.S. was part of Mexico, and before the Spanish conquest of North America, what is now the entire United States was indigenous. Our historical memory only goes so far back. I think to have buildings such as Jiménez Hall named for figures that represent other cultures is important, and we should have more of them throughout campus.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

The university needs to invest money into an action plan. In other words, it needs to walk the talk and talk the walk. Programs of diversity and inclusion and dialogues are great, but I think points of discussion need to be implemented.

For example, we have a huge problem with retention of diverse faculty. The number of faculty of color is not on par with what it should be, reflecting our local and national demographics. We need more African-American and Latinx representation, the whole spectrum of diversity. The university needs to support our programs like Latinx studies, in terms of funding and faculty hires and curriculum. My understanding is that our students recently protested and made 64 demands. However, very few of those demands were acknowledged and addressed by President Loh, and the students felt very disappointed and upset because they truly have their finger on the pulse of our campus, region and nation. Their demands need to be revisited, and fast. They demanded support of diversity programs, attention to the noose situation, and support for students of color and undocumented students. One of the responses was establishing a position at MICA to work with undocumented students. A lot of us felt like those are great measures. However, they might be measures done to appease students because all 64 demands haven’t been addressed. The students were really deliberate in identifying issues here on campus.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

It all starts with us. I think one of the things we need to do is to have open minds and reach out to people. I like to create situations where my students come into contact with people of different values, ethnicities, races and perspectives. I’m a strong believer in community engagement, where we can learn by doing. In one of my classes this fall, for example, my students are teaching English to immigrant parents and mentoring students at a school here in College Park, which is 65 percent Latino and 17 percent African American. My students are working with populations they might read about, especially in my classes. But it’s another thing to engage with people, to hear their stories, to hear a mother tell us how she crossed the U.S.-Mexico border by foot, and almost died in transit. I feel hearing these stories first-hand is transformative for some. Learning, acknowledging and being respectful of the stories of people who are much vilified in the public sphere and in the media can empower us, especially given our context, which has become so anti-immigrant and anti-refugee. It’s our responsibility to open ourselves up to others to acknowledge, to listen and to reflect on their stories in order to build empathy for others. Our actions start with empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we won’t be able to see people as humans like ourselves.

I’m increasingly becoming weary and frightened of the anti-immigrant sentiment and discrimination in this country, especially being an immigrant myself. I came to the United Sates at age 5. A lot of us who are part of the 1.5 generation, whose parents brought us to this country, had no say in our migration. Now, we have large populations of undocumented immigrants—some are Dreamers who were able to get recognition to pursue their education with in-state tuition in Maryland—but given this anti-immigrant situation that is increasing day by day, a lot of young people are being denied education, opportunities and even worse, security in the near future. We are at the precipice of things, of falling over, away from a future where all people can earn a living wage. I’m feeling that the violence that has risen in the last few years can be seen through police action, deportation of our immigrants, and in the very lives of everyday folks who are trying to eke out a living without causing harm to anyone. This violence is something that needs to stop, that needs to be addressed on this campus. We have a large population of workers who may not be undocumented but who may be here on temporary protected migrant status, which is in jeopardy right now of being rescinded. My concern is what will happen to these members of our community, who have lived here a long or short time, if these anti-immigration measures are fully implemented. Will they and their children just be cast away?[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

I don’t [think hate is on the rise worldwide]. I think we’re more aware and that people are naming it more than they did before, but I don’t actually think that incidents are increasing. Our attention and our acknowledgement of what’s going on is increasing. I think that the visibility and virality that social media brings has in some ways given folks both the language and the space to talk about it and to say, “My experiences of being marginalized fall into that category.” When you don’t know the word for something, you can often overlook it. But when you learn the vocabulary for something, whether it’s privilege, oppression, hate or anything, having the language lets you have access to talk about it and see it in ways that you might not otherwise.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

If only we knew why hate-related incidents are happening on campuses and could fix it! I have confidence that if the solution to ending hate and oppression was available, it would be enacted. However, I don’t think that the solutions, or the problems, are that simple. The inequalities and oppressions around race, gender, sexuality, religion, class and ability in our society are longstanding and complex, and they are maintained and supported by an expansive and entangled network of privileges. As much as we might want, as a university, to be different from the rest of society, we’re not. We might want to think, being on a university campus, “Well, we study that. Our values are in support of fighting against those very oppressions.” Certainly, many on campus have insight into how to struggle against and minimize those oppressive forces and work toward social justice. At the same time, we’re people in the world; our university is a place in society, and neither we nor the university exists in a vacuum free of oppressions. I think that UMD and other universities can take a lead in working toward change and social justice, but I certainly don’t think we’re immune. I’ve seen examples of how the university can and has been a force for social justice. I’ve also seen, and still see, lingering problems and how much more can and needs to be done.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

I think those actions do and don’t make a difference in campus climate. They are markers of a certain type of change, but certainly they’re not the full extent of the changes that need to be made. It’s been great to see how the Frederick Douglass statue in Hornbake Plaza has served as a gathering point for some of the protests, marches and rallies students have had, but I also know that students’ demands are far more expansive than having a space to gather in protest.

Naming changes can make different statements to different campus communities, from prospective and incoming students, to alumni. Personally, I think the changes that have been made are good ones, though I know all don’t necessarily agree. I don’t ever think that all of us will feel any one way about everything – that’s a reality of living with difference.

One thing I value about the recent building name changes was the opportunity for dialogue and discussion they created. For example, the renaming of the Art and Sociology Building to be the Parren J. Mitchell Art and Sociology Building spurred conversations about UMD’s history as a land grant university, its history of segregation, and the significance of Parren J. Mitchell in desegregating our university. I think the name change honors Mitchell’s memory and his achievements, while at the same time it highlights racist oppression. So, we can celebrate positive changes that have been made, but also still see the need to continue working for social justice.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

In some ways, the word “diversity” has been so used that it’s overused. We use it as a catchall, but what do we really mean by it? I think one of the things we need to do is talk about concern and care. You can be included, you can be invited, and still not be welcomed. There’s a way in which “being included” can invite the question, “Is this a space that I’m not just invited to but is actually thinking of me and making it a good place for me to be?” I think it’s a hard task for a campus.

I know one of the things that a lot of people are frustrated by is decision-making. I think transparency would go a long way. Sometimes you need to make a decision slowly, and if people are frustrated by the pace at which things happen but know why things are going slowly, that might help. Sometimes decisions need to be made quickly. From the outside if you’re not part of those decisions it’s like, Well what happened? How did this get to be decided like this? I think some transparency would go a long way toward understanding why in certain circumstances a decision was made in a certain way.

Sometimes I’m not sure what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about hate crimes, there’s a specific legal definition with criminal/judiciary implications. If we’re talking about free speech and challenges to free speech, this connects to constitutional law. Or are we just talking about hate, the dislike of people and not getting along? I know that people want the murder of Lt. Collins to be prosecuted as a hate crime. But we know about the prison industrial complex and how it disproportionately affects men of color, especially black men. I’m not sure we want to call upon that system on behalf of Lt. Collins. Also, studies have shown that more severe punishment (which is what a hate crime designation makes possible) doesn’t actually deter people from harboring ill wills and committing crimes in the first place.

I think that we need to find some way of genuine engagement with difference. In-group education and outreach is sometimes most effective. For example, there are white anti-racist organizations whose mission is to go and talk to other white community members, so that it isn’t people of color telling white folks, “Hey, you guys are racist and you need to check your white privilege.” Privileged people need others similarly situated who they can sympathize and empathize with to say, “I understand, I’m white, too and we need to think about the privilege we have.” Systems of oppression and privilege thrive on privilege remaining invisible and unacknowledged. It’s not just about getting the folks who are oppressed to teach everybody else about oppression. Each of us needs to ask, “Where am I privileged and how do I go about educating myself so that I can be an advocate and an ally and a force for change and social justice?” For me, I think about the importance of myself as an able-bodied person bringing to light disability issues, so it’s not just people who have disabilities that are always bringing it up. In the same way that as a trans person and an immigrant, I don’t always want to be the only one called upon to teach others about trans and/or immigrant issues. I’m not like, “Oh, ask me, I’m the immigrant. Oh, ask me, I’m the trans one.” Of course I have something to say, but I shouldn’t be the only one who does! Other people should be having conversations because it’s the responsible, right and good thing to do. There’s a difference between lifting up and making space for marginalized voices and expecting us to be solely responsible for your learning. But I think the right and good thing to do is often easier when you have a personal connection and you can say to yourself, “Oh, I know people affected by this, and I want to be on their side.” For folks who experience racial privilege, there’s a notion of, “I didn’t ask for it, I’m not doing anything to hurt other people.” Well, if you’re not examining your privilege, then you are maintaining and supporting racism. With privilege goes responsibility.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

Part of what we all can do is realize that we all have an individual and collective responsibility and accountability to do what we can. Not everybody can do the same thing, because we have different privileges and because we’re in different positions. Some folks are more vulnerable than others. There’s not going to be any one answer of what we should do. But I think that if we could all come to the place of thinking, “I need to do something, and whatever it is I can do, I should do that,” I think that would go a long way. How we get to that point is another matter. Privileges grant us comfort, so maybe one key is being willing to be uncomfortable.[/expand]

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today?

It’s something that we’re clearly witnessing, at least from my vantage point, my experience, a significant rise in not just hate crimes, but in the language and speech that dehumanizes the other, that marginalizes that other, that is an expression of people’s hate to each other. It’s witnessed in people’s communication, in social media and social culture, in entertainment and in the way that people interact with each other. It’s felt and it’s seen, and the statistics don’t lie about it, nor do people’s experiences.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

I believe it’s a reflection of our larger culture that has normalized and streamlined bigotry, hate and intolerance. College campuses, which are microcosms of the larger society, are mirrors reflecting the behaviors normalized in our larger circles.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

I think they’re significant because otherwise, we are playing lip service to ideals and values that we claim to be important. At the end of the day, we have to implement practices and introduce changes that reflect the seriousness of our commitment to those ideals and values, and to demonstrate to anyone that’s been marginalized or oppressed that we care for them. If something is interpreted or seen as being disrespectful to their identity, their background, their faith or where they come from, then we have to do all that we can to remove that trace or act—in this case, language—that undermines their own feelings of safety and well-being.

The challenge is how to make that part of a bigger strategy or plan that curbs the behaviors that are very significant and are taking a significant toll on us. It’s a moral imperative, it’s an ethical imperative, it’s a physical imperative, when we get to the point where the sanctity of life has been threatened, and an alarm has been going off, and our reactions and responses should be as serious. It cannot wait.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

It’s easy to say that we need to do things to eliminate hate or bigotry or intolerance. There should be no illusion in anybody’s mind: This is going to take a long time, and there are no easy fixes. Otherwise, we’re going to be disappointed over and over that things are not happening.

Having said that, I see this as requiring both a short-term and a long-term strategy. In the short term, people need to feel safe on a college campus. People have a right, as human beings, to be free from physical threats, essentially anything that abuses our physical lives and our emotional and psychological well-being. I would advocate for any policies and actions by the university that ensure that students feel safe. It’s an imperative. It trumps all other considerations.

In terms of specifics, I feel that we need to stand up, in whatever language and actions that are appropriate, against any form of abuse, including verbal abuse, that really marginalizes someone and makes them feel unsafe. And whatever actions send this message, I’ll be in support of—while respecting free speech, because that’s a sacred value and principle in our society on which we exist and thrive. That is a challenge; I don’t have all the answers to that. But once we prioritize something, it becomes much easier to muster the energy and resources to tackle this over time.

I don’t see the university as an independent kind of entity or administration operating apart from the rest of campus. It’s part of the community. In that context, what we as a campus community can do is witness and observe what the problems are in the mainstream. Clearly there’s a great deal of contentiousness and ignorance of the other. We have a society that has glorified contentiousness, of defeating the other, of disrespecting the other, pitting us against the other—a culture where our political language condones insults and the dismissal and dehumanization of the other, and we don’t really go out of our way to learn about the other. We merely accept the reduction of human beings that look different and their stories to simple labels, tweets and memes.

We need to combat the ignorance that is so pervasive. Even though we’re becoming more connected, we’re becoming less and less aware and knowledgeable about each other, and we’re all comfortable with that. We’ve reduced entire stories and narratives to stereotypes, essentially a label or thought that might not be accurate. We place ourselves in exclusive categories. We demand respect, but we don’t want to respect. We want care and empathy for ourselves and people like us, but we don’t want to give it to others. Clearly, there are barriers and walls. We pretend they’re not there.

So we need to make efforts toward creating a culture of learning about the other, of caring and compassion for the other. It comes down to creating and supporting spaces that bring people together to listen to each other. How do you advocate for people to sit down, and listen, but perhaps, in that encounter, something happens, and maybe it will lead to some conclusions or insights that you might not have had. I do really believe that transformations do occur in breaking bread together.

Being realistic, that’s not going to happen if we don’t model or live or value that behavior. Transformations cannot occur at the macro level until you have changes at the micro level. If human beings do not change, we can claim all we want about introducing new policies and so forth, but it’s not going to last.

The other idea is long-term: a redefinition or recalibration of what it means to be a human being. I see this here and at other universities: We’re an academic culture where we value resume virtues—professional development, success, getting ahead at any cost. Meanwhile, we’re not aware of the toll it’s taking on students because it is neglecting their psychological and moral development. If all that I’m occupied with as a student is me getting ahead, how am I expected to pay attention to how I feel about the other? In our fast-paced culture that places emphasis on external achievements, we’re paying less attention to what makes us human beings, to ethics, ethos, care, compassion, empathy and connecting with other people.

That for me takes a serious commitment. You have to have a plan for it. For things we care about, we have a program. To me, spiritual, emotional and psychological development also requires a program. I think students need to be exposed more to that, they need to be cared for, nurtured, and we need to learn the language of care and compassion for other people, rather than hope that people will just figure it out on their own.

The question for me is how you see the other as a worthy human being, not just to tolerate them. The language of tolerance isn’t enough for me. I don’t want to be tolerated, but appreciated and respected. Tolerate means you can live with me. The higher level is to recognize you bring value, you’re beautiful, and you don’t deserve just to live, but to be honored.

These are long-term to cultivate and develop, but they need to begin right now. We need to engage people now and challenge them to reflect more on what they deem as important, as human, as virtuous.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

It is time for us as students, as teachers to inject consciousness into what we’re doing and into our thoughts, perceptions and actions and perhaps begin to acknowledge our ignorance. We need to humble ourselves and retreat from that place of thinking we’re right. And take on reality in the world and recognize that maybe we are ignorant. We need to pose new questions for ourselves.

If I have kind of a deficient or deformed understanding of what it means to be human, then I’m not going to seek it. If I decide that I care enough about diversity, about overcoming all that hate and intolerance and contributing toward that, then I must commit to two things: standing up and not contributing to it. I as a human being owe myself and my community, my society and my country that I should not contribute further to hate and intolerance and reject anything that marginalizes someone.

And in parallel, I need to think of ways right now where I can actually on a day-to-day basis do things that promote those values that I espouse. I’m going to do everything I can to learn something new, to have that conversation and learn that person’s story, and say, teach me, I want to listen.

I feel those conversations for students are very doable, but they’re not making the time. There are a lot of opportunities for this to happen on campus, and lots of people are showing up, but there are a lot of people not showing up.

One of the ways to make someone feel more urgently about needing to change and challenge oneself to think and behave differently is to ask the central question of: Who are we becoming? In observing the rise of hate speech and crimes and intolerance, we should be asking ourselves not only how we should deal with these things, how do I elevate the level of urgency in my head? If we are being complacent, there’s a trajectory that’s going to impact our personality and character as a community and a society.

How about essentially daily making an effort to commit a minor act of compassion to really check on somebody, to really sit down and listen to somebody, to really smile at someone. Are we doing enough day-to-day to register those micro compassions that have been proven over and over to transform human beings and relationships?

We all know the effect of an act of compassion: What brings a tear to our eye is remembering when someone who cared for us, who patted us on the shoulder when we were broken, who gave us a hug when we really needed it. Imagine if we had a culture that people were going out of their way to do this. It sounds simplistic, but it is so powerful.

Beyond this, I feel like we need to be advocates for the marginalized. We can speak so much for the marginalized and oppressed because so many times, they can’t speak for themselves. As students, it’s an imperative for us to step up and be fierce advocates for those that we really see as being oppressed and marginalized. Advocate for them. Speak against acts of hate and intolerance. It goes a long way in building relationships, in making people feel like they belong, that they’re cared for.

Change will occur when enough people make time for it. It’s something I challenge my students on: If you care for that, show up.

Do you believe hate is on the rise around the world today? 

Whether or not there is actually more of it these days is a debatable question. I think the empirical data on this question is mixed. It depends on context and other factors. The broader concern is people’s perceptions that hate is on the rise in this country and across the world today, and the visceral response that people have when they encounter it. We have a responsibility as an educational institution to educate people about the nature of hate and bias, and to be fully responsive to those who have been victimized by it within our institution.

Why do you think hate-related incidents have taken place on college campuses nationwide, including ours?

College campuses essentially are microcosms of the larger society, and when we think about the ways that hate takes place more broadly, they’re going to transfer to college and university campuses in many of the same ways they occur outside of the campus context. Universities have aspirational goals to educate new leaders, to help discover new knowledge and help solve societal ills—and some of those societal ills are reflected in hate or bias or discrimination or violence. We should aspire to overcome those challenges in ways that allow us promote the wellbeing of all members of our communities.

In the past year or two, the university has removed Curley Byrd’s name from the football stadium, renamed the art-sociology building for the first African American to earn a graduate degree here, and installed g a statue of Frederick Douglass. Do actions like this have an impact on UMD’s campus culture?

There is a long and varied historical legacy in higher education generally rooted in non-inclusive approaches that reflect all of the different -isms, which we need to overcome. The renaming and the establishment of symbols on our campus to reflect a more inclusive view of the world are important. But also, they help us to repair the mistakes that have been made in the past by our predecessors.

What steps can the university take as an institution to fight hate and create a safer campus?

Institutions are made up of the individuals that comprise them—people who work there, people who provide leadership there and students. So the institution itself is a reflection of the broader society and a microcosm. By having that sense and that awareness of how we reflect the broader society, we need to establish a mission that is consistent with being egalitarian and reflective of equity and inclusion, and then to have values—expressed values in multiple ways—that promote a positive working and learning environment. One that proactively encourages people to be their best selves in the institution.

As we reflect on the nature of hate in higher education, and bias incidents, or discrimination, or micro-aggressions or experiences of non-inclusiveness, those are all ills that I think occur as part of a broader culture, and as part of subgroups of the larger society that exist on college campuses. Oftentimes they’re reflected as attitudes and beliefs, rather than simply the behaviors we’re most concerned about. My concern about trying to implement rules or policies or sanctions, even, about hate or bias is that they don’t take away the attitudes or the beliefs. Policies and rules don’t take away the attitudes and the beliefs. Those will still exist. They may allow us to take action when somebody has harmed another person. And certainly we have laws that will do that and we have policies that are intended to do that, and we should maintain those in ways that protect the people who are members of our community. So I think it’s difficult to identify specific policies that are going to combat hate, because hate is really ultimately reflected as attitudes and belief.

What can every member of the Terp community do?

I think it’s up to every individual who belongs to the UMD community to think about and reflect upon the kind of institution that we want to be. That may mean different things to students than it does to faculty or staff, or it may mean similar thing, and to different subgroups within faculty and student and staff it may mean different things as well. But I think if we reflect upon the kind of institution that we want UMD to be, then we have to be our best selves in enacting that vision of our institution. That’s kind of a broad and vague way of answering the question, but I think that ultimately individuals have to be responsible for themselves, and to some degree, encourage others to be responsible for themselves in ways that are positively reflective of the kinds of values that the institution espouses. To be a member of this community is to be positively connected to and reflecting the values that we espouse.

Click here to read how Roger Worthington, the new interim chief diversity officer, ended up taking a job he never sought.

Steps Toward Solutions

This summer, turning introspection into action started with a bagged lunch.

The Office of Undergraduate Studies organized a weekly discussion series for faculty and staff to work to understand the complex problems of hate and divisiveness, just one way the university has sought to confront and identify steps to address them.

Over their lunches, hundreds of members of the Terp community came together for conversations on such topics as free speech versus hate speech, identity privilege and teaching strategies for sensitive issues.

“They liked being together with people from all over campus,” says Cynthia Kay Stevens, associate dean of the Office of Undergraduate Studies, who helped organize the sessions. “Being able to have some pretty frank conversations on issues of race and how that can create challenges was helpful.”

Other recent campus actions include:

• Convening a task force on hate-bias and campus safety, co-chaired by Lucy Dalglish (dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism), Warren Kelley (assistant vice president for student affairs) and Ja’Nya Banks (Student Government Association diversity chair)​.

• Creating a trained, rapid-response team for hate-bias incidents.

• Observing a campus-wide moment of reflection in conjunction with Bowie State University on Aug. 30 to honor Collins.

• Introducing “March: Book Three” by U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell as this year’s First Year Book. The 2016 National Book Award-winning graphic memoir is about Lewis’ landmark civil rights work.

• Welcoming U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) to speak on campus about race, politics and reconciliation on Aug. 31.

• Organizing a series of campus discussions through the Anti-Defamation League and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

• Strengthening Intercollegiate Athletics policy to explicitly prohibit hate-bias symbols or actions and to add fake weapons and flammables to its list of items banned from athletic venues.

• Planning a university-wide survey on the campus climate.

For details, visit umdreflects.umd.edu.


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