Two More Universities Rocked By Racist Incidents

Photo: Boston Globe/Getty Images.
It’s been a bad week for tolerance on college campuses. In the space of a few days, not one but two separate universities have seen racist actions against Black members of their communities, leaving the schools disturbed and angered.

Students and faculty at Harvard University woke up Thursday morning to find that photo portraits of African-American professors at Harvard Law School had been defaced, with strips of black electrical tape covering the faces of the portraits, The New York Times reports. One of the victimized professors shared an image of his vandalized portrait on Twitter.

The Harvard Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois is dealing with backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement in the form of a white-power Facebook page. The “Illini White Students Union” Facebook page, self-described as a “group for white University of Illinois Students,” appeared on Wednesday, but was promptly taken down, according to The Washington Post. However, it quickly reappeared.

A message to The News-Gazette from the page’s administrator addressed the page as a response to Black Lives Matter protests. “We feel they disrupt student daily life and activity far too much. We are in the United States and not Africa and we don’t desire to have an African flag on campus,” the individual said, and added that the university “marginalizes” white students.

The page, as it appeared on Friday afternoon, contained only a few posts. One was a YouTube clip from American History X, labeled “Relevant to all the Ferguson News.” Another was a cartoon depicting a number of racist caricatures of various minorities declaring their ethnic pride, finishing with what appears to be a drawing of John Goodman in character in The Big Lebowski, labeled “RACIST” in big red letters for declaring white pride.

(It's worth taking a moment to remind the administrators of the page that John Goodman’s character in that movie, Walter Sobchak, is, in fact, Jewish. These are college students. Even if they haven’t learned to identify straw-man arguments about race, they should be able to identify The Big Lebowski without messing it up.)

The good news is that the community response to these acts has been swift and positive.
At the University of Illinois, the Facebook page is still up, but the university’s administration is taking its message seriously. The school’s student newspaper, the Daily Illini, reported that Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson sent a mass email to students calling the page “extremely disturbing.” Robin Kaler, a spokeswoman for the university, also assured students that the administration is working with Facebook to have the page removed. (It continues to be reposted).

“It is disturbing and cowardly that someone would create an anonymous and senseless social-media page specifically designed to intimidate others, including and especially our students,” Kaler told the paper. “We recognize that passions run deep on all sides of many issues, but actions like this are senseless and hurtful and do nothing to foster meaningful dialogue.”

And at Harvard Law, students responded to the defacement of the portraits by swapping out the tape for multiple Post-It notes, on which they wrote compliments and words of support for their professors. Only three hours after the first image of the professor’s portrait was posted on Twitter, he was able to replace it with a happier version.

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