The killing of Richard Collins lll, a Black student from Maryland’s Bowie State University, racial slurs yelled outside of a black student’s apartment at The University of Connecticut, Bailey Tate and other black students walking to get food while getting egged at the University of Michigan.
These are just a few of the many acts of racism that are happening on college campuses. The emails from campus officials alleging “this was an isolated incident not reflecting our values and there is no threat to the community” disregard the safety and feelings of minority students. To some this is a good approach to address situations and the events seem isolated. However, to others who need to worry about their safety due to their differences this is an improper response. Their focus then shifts from academics to being constantly looking out for their safety.
It is no secret although it’s 2022 racism still exists. So why are we still allowing our campuses to discriminate and improperly handle these situations? In 2018, the FBI reported that hate crimes on college campuses have increased year after year. Without changes, these crimes are going to continue, and the well-being of our minority students is going to be at stake.
“Protect our Pack” — as a UConn alum, I remember having to attend this presentation during my first-year orientation. Although a great foundation this program lacks the support for minority students. It briefly discusses “bias related incidents” — this statement itself minimizes feelings of minority students. Referring to incidents as bias-related and not as racism minimizes the impact of the racial attacks toward students. We need to “Protect Our Pack.” Let’s make the necessary changes to do just that.
First, school personnel need to acknowledge the acts of violence and address them correctly.
Next, the program needs to be a yearly mandatory presentation for students and school officials to attend. This is a necessary first step at raising awareness of and educating students and school officials about the impacts of discrimination and how to intervene.
Also, the program needs to discuss racism more directly, from crimes committed to the impact to actively standing up against the acts of racism on campus. When these changes take place, I am hopeful that the UConn community will be able to stand up strongly together for the safety and well-being of students.
Brianna Searles is a current graduate student at Sacred Heart University, and a UConn alum who graduated in 2020. She wrote this op-ed in support of the minority students on college campuses and at UConn.