An anonymous Instagram account detailing instances of alleged racism at Penn State has led to changes within the university’s student government.
“Black at Penn State” features anecdotes from PSU students past and present claiming everything from microaggressions to racist sexual assault. In some cases, specific courses and professors are called out.
According to the Daily Collegian, the page’s creator is a College of Arts and Architecture student. The student wants to remain anonymous out of fear for his or her safety which, the student says, is “a fear many Black students have when speaking out about these issues.”
Allegations against the University Park Undergraduate Association, PSU’s student government, led to the body implementing numerous corrective measures such as mandatory “anti-racism” training, and participation in discussions about systemic racism and white privilege.
Some of the specific charges against the UPUA are that it “uses people of color for ’emotional labor,’” and a UPUA representative telling a minority student the body actually needs more white students because PSU is a predominately white institution.
According to Onward State, UPUA members must complete anti-racism training by August 31, and “candidates running for seats within UPUA” must attend a bias workshop. The UPUA also will “establish a new, secure, and private reporting system for any complaints related to bias or discrimination, [and] all complaints will be thoroughly investigated.”
The creator of Black at Penn State also started a Change.org petition titled “PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Listen to your BIPOC student’s voices!” (BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, People of Color.) It lists several demands including:
An apology. Systematic racial inequalities have existed in the United States in all forms and facets of life since it first became a sovereign nation. This country was in large part built on free labor of Black people brought from African countries in 1619. To this date, the United States nor it’s [sic] institutions and systems have given a formal and adequate apology to it’s [sic] Black American citizens and communities. Penn State is a part of that. …
Decolonization of Penn State’s Eurocentric curriculum. Most American history only covers the mythical white American history and is not inclusive of the horrific truths of America’s past. In short, it is a sugar coated white history. American history is written from the perspective of white American men, but Penn State shall not continue to teach it that way. Ethnic studies and/or social justice courses should be required courses for any and every student who attends Penn State. …
Investment in bringing in speakers and scholars to educate students and faculty/staff on topics of white supremacy, social justice, and racial disparities. … Penn State is located in a white, suburban bubble and it is important to gain knowledge and tools on how to combat race issues and tensions once graduated. This is another demand that should not fall solely on the professors of color.
Another demand, seeking “change[s] in policies regarding zero-tolerance punishment,” states “the idea that hate speech is protected under freedom of speech is appalling.” It may be appalling, but there is indeed no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. And, as a public institution, Penn State is bound by it.
IMAGE: Andrew Gwozdziewycz / flickr.com