The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government has started the Task Force Against Hate Speech alongside other organizations to address racial divides on campus by discussing short-and long-term initiatives and potential university policy changes.
“We want to make this a space for all students on campus to feel empowered and collaborate to take action against hate speech and racism on campus,” USG Elections and Outreach Commissioner Avolyn Nieves said.
The group, spearheaded by Nieves and partnered with the UConn chapter of the NAACP and UConn Collaborative Organizing, was formed to give a platform for debate and progress on the topic of race at UConn. This forum is open to the public, so all undergraduate UConn students can join in on the conversation.
There have been multiple incidents of racially charged activity at the University of Connecticut this month, including when two students shouted the N-word multiple times in a Charter Oak parking lot.
“Black students on this campus constantly have to fight for their rights and their safety even though student safety is stated in the school’s mission statement,” Nieves said. “We would like the university to take proper action in ensuring the safety of Black students and to put in measures to prevent incidents like this from occurring on campus.”
USG released a statement on these incidents last week:
“The Undergraduate Student Government stands in complete solidarity and support of Black students on campus. We formally condemn the use of hate speech that targets students and jeopardizes their safety. USG will be taking a substantial course of action, and will not sit idly as Black students are marginalized and disrespected at this university.”
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas sent out an email a week after the most recent incident, declaring “this, or any similar incident, is deplorable and antithetical to the values of our community and the university as a whole. It has no place on our campuses–or anywhere.”
Nieves felt the email from Katsouleas did not place enough weight on the issue as it should have.
“I can’t speak for every individual on the task force, but I would say overall we felt that it did not directly address the issue at hand, as the email mostly focused around the university’s search for a new Chief Diversity Officer,” Nieves said. “There was not an email sent until one week after the incident, which we believe is too long and shows a lack of urgency.”
The group will also discuss more than solely these incidents, but is also looking into other important race related issues.
Specifically, they are discussing working with Counseling and Mental Health Services to increase the number of black therapists who specialize in coping with “racist and hateful events,” according to Nieves.
They would also like to see an increase black faculty members across the university.
The group meets Sundays at 7 p.m. in Room 143 in Arjona, which is one of the buildings across the street from Mirror Lake. They invite all students to join the discussion.
Mike Mavredakis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. He tweets @mmavredakis.