Summer has come and gone. Students have filed into the University of Connecticut from every Podunk job, glittering internship and laughing misadventure they took part in over the past several months. Driving back on campus, smiling in their cars, they were met with an artful greeting, painted on the massive rock between Shippee and Buckley.
“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” “TRUMP 2016!” “#BLUE LIVES MATTER” “#HILLARY FOR PRISON”
It’s funny: I thought I was returning to this liberal bastion of education, this great equalizer. I even had reason to be confident, with black, brown, undocumented, LGBTQ and female voices growing louder on campus every year. Speak Outs and marches have been held and oppressive structures have had holes poked in them. We have a new Chief Diversity Officer, Joelle Murchison, who is impressive by all accounts and will hopefully make a positive impact.
The incoming crop is more diverse than any preceding freshman class, and on their first day of college, they stared down a peer-produced, anonymous scream of support for the face of racism, sexism, bigotry and white privilege in the U.S.
First, I’ll pay tribute to the conservative buzzwords bound to ring out in response to this event: “Safe spaces,” “Trigger warnings,” “PC culture.” The purpose of these hollow words is to apologize for racism and intimidation by diverting conversation toward free speech. When Emory University was in an uproar over chalked messages on campus reading “Trump 2016,” right-wing media cited the incident as further evidence that college kids, and Millennials, are oversensitive. “People can voice their vote however they’d like! This is America!” they said. Yes, it is, and Donald Trump’s candidacy is as American as racial fear-mongering.
Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty spoke for UConn on the subject.
“As a public university, UConn does not take a stance on political matters or candidates,” Daugherty said. “We respect constitutionally protected political speech…That expression should always occur in a manner that respects UConn’s values of diversity and inclusion.”
If you get behind a man who fields endorsements from KKK leaders, who says women should be punished for getting an abortion, who refused to rent homes to black people, who wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., who thinks Mexicans are rapists and would deport them no matter the circumstances, you are a bigot. If you aren’t actively denouncing Trump’s bigotry, you’re part of the problem.
Blasting support for Trump and his deplorable ideologies during welcome weekend – that is meant to terrorize the minority groups on campus he denigrates. That is telling your fellow students from every American avenue: “We know you’re here, and we don’t care. This is our predominantly white institution, and you should know, from day one, you’re walking on our property.”
President Susan Herbst sent an email to the UConn community with an oblique reference to this event.
“…we are in the midst of a presidential campaign that is unlike any other in recent memory,” the email read. “It continues to generate strong feelings throughout our highly polarized electorate in every community, including on this campus. At UConn…our goal is never to stifle speech, rather it is to practice what is at the heart of every campus community: thoughtful, healthy dialogue and debate.”
We as a student community must not tolerate active persecution. While black people throughout the country are constantly afraid for their lives when dealing with authorities, there is still a population at UConn who would like you to know “blue lives” matter more than yours.
Paola Pérez Moreno, a senior WGSS and LLAS major, who posted a picture of the rock on social media in disgust, wonders what UConn can do in a situation like this.
“If a returning student, or especially a new student, who already feels insecure around Trump supporters, saw the rock, it would bring discomfort and safety concerns,” Moreno said. “Whom may they turn to? When will the administration listen to marginalized groups and take immediate actions?”
I never thought I’d say this, but I’d like to thank the Shippee/Buckley RAs. They are the ones who took the initiative and painted over the message. That act is a reminder to the new students, and the old heads like me, that the good outweighs the bad here. It’ll be alright, and when the next thing comes up, we’ll be here, and ready.