As U Administration Remains Quiet, Efforts to Curb Campus Racism Reside Elsewhere

By Joseph Moss, News Writer

Racism is an issue many people deal with on a daily basis in many different ways. At the University of Utah, it’s no different. Some people go against mainstream society and still feel the need to showcase their racism as publicly as possible. On Jan. 26, 2019, those who align themselves with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups’ visions not only raised a banner on the U campus, but also disseminated multiple stickers along with posters to show their presence and gain followers.

Since that incident, the U has gone through two semesters and is approaching the halfway mark of Fall 2019. Other than a statement made by President Ruth Watkins on Jan. 26, 2019, what else has been done to prevent these events from occurring again? 

The administration was asked if any of the U’s policies have been changed in response to what happened on Jan. 26, and on many different levels, they said no. Specifically, they stand with what President Watkins said in her statement: “The rhetoric used by these groups does not align with or reflect the University of Utah’s values. These cowardly, faceless and non-university sanctioned tactics are designed to disrupt and frighten individuals and communities, and to garner attention for an insidious ideology that has no place on our campus or in our community.”

Jude McNeil, the director in the Office of Inclusive Excellence, stated that “With how this group likes to operate, they tend to do things very late at night and go in places not very many people are at. For example, the edges of the campus. Most of their stickers are also not approved by the university so they get taken down when we are notified since that is how the policy works.”

 Policy 1-007: University Speech Policy (the one that goes over free speech on campus) says the following regarding signs, literature and structures: “For purposes of this regulation, a visible expiration date shall be either a stamped expiration date by the Office of the Dean of Students or official of the college or department responsible for the area where the sign, notice or poster is posted or a legible date placed in the lower right hand corner of the sign, notice or poster by the person or organization posting the sign, notice or poster. University maintenance personnel or other University officials may remove any signs, notices and posters which do not contain a visible expiration date as defined by this section.”

McNeil also further explained that one of the issues the administration faces on battling illegal posters is that “since our campus is a public institution, it’s hard to regulate people who come onto campus as well as to regulate speech, since we base our policy off the Constitution.”

That doesn’t mean nothing is being done in response to these racist actions. Dr. Edmund Fong, an associate professor of Ethnic Studies and Political Science as well as a chair of the Division of Ethnic Studies, said, “I can’t speak for all departments and heaven forbid if something horrific happened, but our faculty has been working and thinking about multiple ways we can be responsive to many different situations, be it that someone is being offensive or someone ends up triggered within class, or heaven forbid again an active shooter were to arise. We are working on many different ways to handle those situations.”  

A task force has also been created under the supervision of Tawanda Owens, the executive director for Diverse Student Advocacy. Owens was unavailable for comments. McNeil stated that they weren’t well versed with the task force, but still gave a small insight into their works.

“They have created somewhat of a reporting system, ranging from levels one to three. Depending on the severity of the situation at hand, someone would be able to report whatever incident they see and then the severity would get judged and action would be taken accordingly,” McNeil said. 

However silent the U may seem with their actions to combat racism around campus, steps are being taken to stop these incidents from happening. For now, if anyone sees anything they would like to report, they can do so through the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s website by clicking on “Report Bias Incident.” Students may also reach out to the Office of Equity and Diversity, Office of the Dean of Students and the University Counseling Center with any concerns.

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This article was originally published in print on Sept. 23. Since the article was published, McNeil’s position title has been changed from interim director to director. The article also originally referred to McNeil using incorrect pronouns. McNeil uses they/them pronouns. We regret the error.