Samuel Northrup, Editor-In-Chief
Student Government Association (SGA) issued its first campus-wide response via email after three fliers reading “It’s OK To Be White” were found on campus.
In its statement, SGA confirmed that the fliers, which were placed anonymously in Strebel Student Center and Bell Hall in October, were motivated by a larger campaign by white nationalist groups to “inflame racial tensions” on college campuses across the country. The student governing body’s email went on to condemn the “implicit historical meaning” attached to the words on the fliers.
“We are asking for our fellow students to join us in rising above hate, whether explicit or implicit, in resisting that which divides us, to be conscious of the impact of our actions and words, and to be ethically engaged student citizens,” stated the email. “Passivity must never be an option for us. We shall overcome.”
Inside Higher Ed, an online publication reporting on various educational, social and economic issues surrounding higher education, confirmed in a Nov. 7 report that “It’s OK To Be White” fliers have “typically” been placed by off-campus groups or individuals, not students. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism tracked a noticeable increase in the amount of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses across the country, finding 292 reported cases in the 2017-2018 academic year compared to 165 in the 2016-2017 semesters.
While still recognizing the importance of freedom of speech on college campuses, Hermina Garic, who was one of the nine executive board members who co-signed the SGA email, explained that student leaders wanted to take a “very strong position” on hate-related messages and groups.
“As SGA president, I’m still going to be vigilant of these issues and push for change on our campus and push my student leaders to do the same thing,” Garic said.
The presence of the “It’s OK To Be White” fliers on campus was the most recent example in a series of racially charged incidents to take place at UC since the 2017 spring semester when racist graffiti was found on walls in Bell Hall and Burrstone House.
While Garic recognized the role that students and the college administration can play in “battling racism,” she explained that a broader, systematic response to racism at UC would be an effective measure to see results. Speaking as a student leader, the SGA president pointed to steps that can be taken to encourage broader education on race in America and the world, including reevaluating the college’s curriculum to offer a more “globalized education” that is applicable to today’s society and increasing the hiring of more diverse faculty and administration members.
“You can’t just have [one group responding to an incident] because, if you just continue to respond to incidents, the issue of racism doesn’t go away,” Garic said. “You have to make sure you make structural changes because that’s where the issues of racism are rooted, there’s a whole power dynamic.”
But until all this happens, Garic said she is continuing to encourage fellow student leaders to be more vigilant of events and issues going on around campus and the world.