President proposes $100k for diversity efforts, ‘hate-bias task force’; student group demands more
In the wake of the murder of Lt. Richard Collins III at the University of Maryland, a student group has issued demands that “hate speech” be classified as a “cult activity” on campus, and that the university implement a “zero-tolerance policy regarding hate-bias incidents.”
The president of the university, in turn, has pledged that the school will “clarify [the] Code of Student Conduct to strengthen sanctions for hate and bias” and “carefully consider the enactment of stiffer sanctions when conduct is found to be motivated by hate or bias.”
Collins, 23, a black Bowie State University student who was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army two days before his death, was fatally stabbed while waiting at a bus stop by Sean Urbanski. Because of Urbanski’s association with an allegedly white supremacist Facebook group, the murder is being investigated by the FBI as a hate crime. (The administrators of the Facebook group have claimed that it is satirical and not sincere.)
A flurry of demands were issued by a student group following the murder, demanding the university do more to combat both “hate bias” and “hate speech. The group, known as ProtectUMD, started a petition on the “racial justice” site organizefor.org, an “online civil rights organization.” The group demanded the university do more to “to expand the consequences for hate speech.”
On the same day, university President Wallace Loh sent a message to the university announcing a number of measures in response to the murder, which included a “rapid-response team for any hate bias incident,” an additional $100,000 for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, an “annual report of all hate-bias incidents on campus,” and a “task force on hate-bias and campus safety.”
The president expressed hope that the task force would “engage the entire UMD community on difficult issues at the intersections of free speech, hate speech, and freedom of association.”
Following Loh’s proposals, ProtectUMD issued four additional demands including asking the university to “consider hate speech incidents on the campus as ‘cult activity,’” and to “implement a zero-tolerance policy regarding hate bias incidents,” the Diamondback campus newspaper reports
A nearly 20-year-old University System of Maryland policy defines cult activity as group activities that innocently or intentionally cause “demonstrable physical, psychological or emotional harm to students [and interferes] substantially with the education mission of the institution.”
The group also demanded that the university conduct “environmental scans” in the wake of a “hate bias incident.” These “scans” would “examine how students, faculty and staff react in the following days,” the Diamondback reports.
Lastly, the group demanded that University of Maryland students would hold at least 50 percent of the seats on Loh’s proposed task force.
The College Fix asked the school’s Black Student Union—the managers of the organizefor.org petition—for clarification about the sanctions they would like to see leveled in response to hate speech. The student group did not return comment.
Following the additional outcry, Loh issued another public statement in which he promised that the university would “clarify our Code of Student Conduct to strengthen sanctions for hate and bias” and “carefully consider the enactment of stiffer sanctions when conduct is found to be motivated by hate or bias.”
The College Fix reached out to the president’s office to determine both what the new sanctions would look like and if the office could provide a definition of “hate speech.” Campus spokeswoman Katie Lawson told The Fix that “All of these matters will be taken up by the Task Force, which the university is in the process of assembling now.”
The recent demands have created public backlash from some students.
Writing in the Baltimore Sun, two University of Maryland students argue that the proposals under review are too extreme.
“Banning so-called hate speech would only suppress public expression of hateful views. Doing so at UMD, while likely to draw support from the student body, would do nothing to address the root of the problem. Instead of stifling those views, they should be debated. Given the opportunity to stand on their own false merits, they will collapse — no prohibition required,” write students Tom Hart and James Whitlow.
“…Knee-jerk reactions and forced self-censoring systems are no way to address hate. Civil discussion is,” they claim.
Late last year, ProtectUMD issued an unrelated set of 64 demands ranging from “mandated faculty training in the fundamentals of campus inclusion of queer folks” to “an increase in the number of safe, designated prayer areas on campus” for Muslim students, to “increased mental health support and resources for students of color.”