A “March for Action” is set to take place Friday in response to the University of Connecticut’s handling of the event “It’s OK To Be White” that made national news Tuesday night, according to Rebecca Kaufman, one of the event’s organizers.
The event will begin at 1 p.m. by the statue of Jonathan the husky at the top of Fairfield Way, Kaufman, a seventh-semester political science and human rights major, said. The event was created to bring attention to the university’s treatment of racism, Kaufman said.
“The university certainly did not deal with this event well,” Kaufman said.
Lucian Wintrich, who was invited to speak by the UConn College Republicans, was arrested by UConn police Tuesday night after he grabbed an audience member who took his speech paper from his podium.
Wintrich was charged with breach of peace and held on $1,000 bond, and was released later that evening.
In response to this event, five UConn students, Omar Taweh, Kennedy McDuffie, Abby Katz, Rebecca Kaufman and Wawa Gatheru, have planned a march to protest the university’s reaction.
Taweh, a fifth-semester physiology and neurobiology student, said he believes what incited the issue was the university's lack of research prior to allowing Wintrich to come to campus.
“A simple search of his name on Google brings up a plethora of white nationalistic and hate-inciting content,” Taweh said. “Had the university properly reviewed the speaker and made sure he adhered to their community standards, which all students are held to, I don’t think they would have let him speak.”
Kaufman echoed Taweh’s sentiment regarding the university’s handling of the event.
“The whole thing felt very sneaky,” Kaufman said. “Most people that I know didn’t find out about the event until the day of and that had consequences for our ability to organize a meaningful protest.”
Kaufman added the event felt insidious.
“UConn, at the very least, could have sent out an email preparing students for the event and offer resources to deal with the trauma that Wintrich was inevitably going to incite,” Kaufman said.
Both Kaufman and Taweh said Wintrich’s words were hate speech.
“I would have preferred that our university, which prides itself on diversity and inclusion, and claims to have a zero tolerance policy for hate speech, not allow student organizations to host white nationalist speakers,” Kaufman said.
Taweh said that Wintrich’s actions count as hate speech, since they “incited violence.”
“It would have been him practicing his right to the First Amendment if he hadn't been inciting violence with his speech,” Taweh said.
Taweh, Kaufman, McDuffie, Katz and Gatheru created the event in light of how the university handled the situation “completely tastelessly,” according to Kaufman. The event is viewable on Facebook.
“Time and time again, we see bias related injustices at UConn met with complacency and as a student body, we are TIRED,” the event’s description reads. “It’s time to hold our university accountable.”
The event’s description featured the hashtag #ItsOkToBe and the tagline “Join us in this call to action and make your voices heard.”
The hashtag invited people to write how they identify, as exemplified through one of the creator’s post, “#ItsOkToBe a black woman.”
Late Thursday evening, President Susan Herbst sent out an email in response to Tuesday night’s events.
“Many of us found the comments of this particular speaker to be loathsome,” Herbst said. “His main goal appeared to be to perform and provoke. Nonetheless, he was within his rights to speak on campus and express himself.”
Herbst went on to say that honoring an individual’s right to free speech does not constitute as endorsing their actions and beliefs.
“Having the right to do something and the wisdom of that choice can be two very different things,” Herbst said.
Abby Brone is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.