Less than two full months after the start of the semester, the university has reported 10 incidents of prejudice, including homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti, anti-Asian harassment, racial profiling, and the distribution of grossly racist emails in inboxes. reception of black student leaders. The university has also seen at least nine official reports of sexual assault, three of which occurred in the first few weeks of the school year.
Nefertiti Walker, vice-chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion, said the UMass Police Department is investigating the most recent incident, which took place in the dormitory at Crampton Hall.
She said while administrators will do everything possible to support students and identify perpetrators of discrimination, finding offensive graffiti is “endemic” to college dorm life and identifying those responsible is “nearly impossible.”
“Having someone scribble something sexist, racist or homophobic on a whiteboard or in a hallway or bathroom is something that happens,” Walker said in a telephone interview Friday. “It’s hard to catch these people because they do it at 2 a.m. when they come in, often under the influence or just fooling around late at night.”
Walker challenged the idea that UMass has a serious problem with race, saying the school is a “microcosm for society”.
“I don’t think what’s going on at UMass, these times of racist behavior or racist acts, is much different from what is happening in other predominantly white institutions,” she said. “These things are happening in other spaces. I really think we are very transparent.
Walker said the university regularly updates its online stigma incident report. She also said it has some of New England’s most “visible” and “far-reaching” diversity, equity and inclusion programs, making the university a target for those who don’t want to see it. racial equity.
But Zachary Steward, a junior studying African American and Legal Studies, remembers an incident in her first year when someone wrote a racial death threat on her dorm bathroom mirror. He said the university’s response continues to be inadequate and that preventing racism is “not a priority” for the administration.
“These things happen every year, every day of every year. Often they go unreported, ”he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “This is not surprising given that the university refuses to adopt preventive measures.”
On Thursday afternoon, Steward was one of more than a hundred students who walked with the UMass Chapter of the NAACP to the Whitmore Administration Building to demand the change.
Student protesters have made demands on the chancellor’s office, including introducing training on racial and unconscious bias when orienting new students, increasing funding for organizations led by black students and the demand that the university issue a formal apology for its “non-response” to racist emails. were sent to black organizations at the start of the fall semester.
Steward said he and other students of color just wanted to graduate “in peace,” but the constant barrage of racist incidents threatens to derail their efforts to succeed.
“[Students of color] take it one day at a time, ”Steward said. “We can’t always wait for the university to do things right. . . I’ll never feel safe here, and I’m pretty sure future students won’t feel safe until there is real action from the administration.
Julia Carlin can be reached at [email protected]