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"Up, up with education, down, down with segregation": Online hate indicative of insidious discrimination problems on campus - The Red and Black : Uganews

"Up, up with education, down, down with segregation": Online hate indicative of insidious discrimination problems on campus

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 9:00 am | Updated: 11:15 am, Mon Jun 30, 2014.

Caroline Bailey wasn’t surprised.

“I chose the University of Georgia because of the lack of diversity,” said Bailey, the president of the Black Affairs Council. “For a lot of people who go to the University of Georgia, they went to predominantly white high schools, their neighborhoods are predominantly white and it will continue to be that way.”

And during a week featuring words of racism and homophobia targeted at UGA student and faculty groups, Bailey’s preconceived notions were confirmed.

“I came to [UGA] knowing that the rest of the world once I leave high school will never look like me again.”

• • •

“Why can’t you dumb dirty n-----s stop stinking up the place?” posted the user onto the BAC’s Facebook page. “Let UGA be RIGHT for good WHITE Christian students.”

“Burn in hell f-----s” was left on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center’s Facebook page.

In response to Facebook posts of hate speech left on the BAC and LGBTRC pages, Bailey filed for a march permit. The posts were left around 9 p.m. Nov. 3 on the BAC and LGBTRC’s Facebook pages.

The march was Friday afternoon.

A Facebook account created just prior to posting the hate speech on the student groups’ pages operated under the name Matthew Robert Williams.

This was the first time either group experienced such blatant acts of hate on social media, but it wouldn’t be the last. Williams denied responsibility for the hate speech posts, stating the account operating under his name was a fake.

“Just a heads up that Facebook account isn’t me,” Williams tweeted.

He also filed an incident report with the UGA Police Department Nov. 7 around 1 p.m.

“Williams advised that he was not responsible for the postings and that an unknown person or persons used his name fraudulently to create the postings,” according to a UGA police report.

The Equal Opportunity Office is investigating the matter but declined to comment to The Red & Black.

For the students, the Facebook post is not the real problem.

The more than 150 marchers who arrived outside of Memorial Hall marched not against the posts, but against racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination on UGA’s campus.

“We’ve been put in situations and environments where we don’t feel welcome, where we don’t feel represented, where we feel like we are the undesirables here at the University of Georgia,” Bailey said. “That we are just here to attract other people because the word ‘diversity’ is being thrown around.”

***

She said one of the biggest problems at UGA is the idea held by so many people that everything is OK — that there is no longer the presence of a white and minority dichotomy.

Bailey believes there are more people, aside from the Facebook user, who share the sentiment there are demographic groups that don’t belong on campus.

“I’m sure I sit next to them in class, I’m sure I walk past them through Tate, I’m sure that there are more people that feel that way,” she said. “They’ve been surrounded by these thoughts — they are in their heads, they are in their feelings, they are there. It’s in their upbringing.”

Katherine Valdez, a senior linguistics major from Athens, came to the march spontaneously after she got off of the bus.

“I just knew it was the right thing to do to express my support for everybody — women, anyone of any color, any native language, any sexual orientation, anything like that,” she said. “I don’t always feel I’m the most effective straight ally out there and I wanted to have an opportunity to be more effective.”

BAC member Kiondre Dunnam, a sophomore middle school education major from Douglas, said the decision to put on a march in union with the LGBTRC on the bridge near Sanford Stadium was specifically intended to approach this the “right way” and go against stereotypical expectations.

“The moment that we strike back, what are we? We’re angry black people,” he said. “That gives people the opportunity to come back and say maybe they deserve to be treated the way they’ve been treated. We refused to give them the opportunity to see us like that.”

• • •

But the students’ organized protest only added fuel to this fire.

A second post was left on the BAC Facebook page Sunday around 9 p.m.

“Yall n-----s can protest all you want it just makes you look like the monkeys you are!”

This came shortly after a post left on the Black Faculty and Staff Organization Facebook page.

“NO N-----S” accompanied a photo of a lynching along with the caption, “WE DONT WANT YOUR KIND AROUND HERE.”

Bailey is “at a loss for words” that these things are still happening.

“I think at this point it’s becoming not even a matter of feeling underrepresented, but a matter of not even feeling protected at the University of Georgia,” she said.

BFSO President Cedric Miller said many were hurt by the posts, but these actions are not representative of the community.

“The University of Georgia is a multicultural, globally focused university and the recent Facebook postings don’t speak for our student body nor the Athens community,” he said. “We’re going to stay steadfast in supporting our students.”

Miller feels welcome and safe in general at UGA, but said it’s important to continually work on creating an environment on campus where all students can be educated and become leaders.

“We’ve come a long way here at the University of Georgia. We’re not the University of Georgia that we were 50 years ago,” he said. “Do we have work to do? Yes we do.”

• • •

Bailey expects more from the administration.

Its presence, she said, is lacking in a time when it is the most needed.

“I think the administration is still stagnant and they haven’t responded as they should,” she said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Victor Wilson feels he and other members of the administration made an effort to advocate for marginalized students in ways not always apparent to students.

Wilson said he can’t be held accountable for what happened prior to taking his position three months ago, but said he has been making an effort to advocate for all students.

“What a lot of folks have to realize too is that a lot of the hurdles and a lot of the changes that are for the betterment of everybody, they are things that you are not going to see,” he said. “We can list and list and list the things that we’ve done, [but] I think sometimes for folks maybe it wasn’t seen as the right thing or wasn’t enough.”

Wilson was hurt and confused by comments from BAC members mentioned in a previous Red & Black article regarding how his message via email was not a substitute for spoken words. He said he was proud of the effort he made to be supportive.

“I want to have students to be safe and not at harm and to have a great experience and there’s something we need to do to improve that, but sometimes administrative duties pull me away,” he said. “My life’s blood is students.”

Wilson and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs T.W. Cauthen released a message Nov. 6 in response to the hate speech posts.

Cauthen feels the posts are “just unacceptable” but the most important issue is their effect on the community.

He said students have long expressed to him broad, ranging feelings of being out of place.

“I think that [feeling unwelcome or uncomfortable] is a reality for our underrepresented students on this campus,” he said. “The feeling of otherness is a part of this that we continue to try and address at the institutional level.”

Both Cauthen and Wilson meant it as a thoughtful way of reaching out, but Wilson doesn’t believe the email can adequately portray the sincerity behind his words.

“It’s hard to convey my anger, it’s hard to convey my disgust, it’s hard to convey my personal feelings as an African American,” he said. “It’s hard to convey that in an email.”

Wilson wishes there is a word “stronger than offended” to describe how he feels about the Facebook posts and has never seen anything this “bold” at UGA or other institutions he has worked at.

UGA President Jere Morehead released a statement Wednesday afternoon via an Archnews email explaining the situation and expressing his sentiments.

“While we hope and expect that anyone responsible will be identified and held accountable for their actions, we should not allow them to achieve the goal that seems to be their intent,” he wrote. “To divide our community and divert our attention from the pursuit of an open, unified campus.

The statement also mentioned the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been contacted and will be involved in an investigation.

What UGA needs, Wilson said, is an open dialogue.

“We all need to sit down and stop and think about the fact that somebody chose to use those words,” he said. “That’s where we got to really have some conversations more about that.”

Student Government Association President Austin Laufersweiler said Morehead called an impromptu meeting with SGA leadership to address the issue.

“I know first hand that administrators at every level are working very hard to address this and are also deeply affected,” Laufersweiler said.

But Bailey is tired of talking.

“I think the administrators at this time have definitely underserved us in ways that are deplorable. Of all the administrators that I’ve reached out to, only one or two of them were at the march,” she said. “I think that if we can’t even get them to show up at marches students plan and orchestrate, then we really don’t have anything to discuss.”

• • •

But as patience dwindles among UGA students, UGA police’s investigation is just winding up.

The person whose name was used in the second round of Facebook posts chose to remain anonymous but denied involvement and has taken legal action.

“This is a crime that’s been done against me, and I don’t want to be tied up in this,” he said. “We are going to find out who did it, and we’re going to prosecute them.”

In the instance of the Matthew Robert Williams account, UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said once caught, whoever is behind the posts could be charged with identity fraud, but cyberbullying in the state of Georgia is not criminal.

“If you look at laws in most states, there has to be a victim, and a group can’t be a victim. It has to be an individual,” he said. “So even in states that have cyberbullying [laws], there [has to be] an individual that is targeted.”

Cauthen said UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy comes into play when there is any act targeting of an individual or group for their actual or perceived identities.

“People’s right to say awful things is protected by the Constitution and the same right that allows them to say that is the same right that [allowed] our students to march on Friday,” he said. “To me when it becomes problematic is when those words are targeted at a group of people or at individuals and, like I said, for me that is when those posts showed up on those groups’ pages.”

• • •

While UGAPD works to figure out the mystery behind the hate speech, UGA’s students are far from done fighting for a supportive and welcoming campus environment.

A silent protest in front of the Office of the President is in the works for Thursday. Although Laufersweiler does not want students' voices to go unheard, he said he worries this protest is not the right answer.

“I think the march expressed a really powerful message of solidarity," he said. "I do not want the solidarity expressed there to be lost in movements or demonstrations that are less reflective of the unity that administrators and students are trying to achieve.”

Bailey said individuals can continue to make a difference and work to change the atmosphere on campus.

With a raised hand and an open mind, Bailey views the classroom as a chance to impart her outlook to a population unlike her — a soft sell for those from differing backgrounds.

“For me it’s to give people of the majority an opportunity to see a different viewpoint — someone who doesn’t look like them, someone who doesn’t necessarily think like them,” she said. “For the vast majority I want you to be able to take and learn from my experiences, the things I think and the things I have to say.”

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Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • GB101 posted at 6:28 am on Fri, Nov 15, 2013.

    GB101 Posts: 2

    Another thing: does the White Affairs Council have a Facebook page?

     
  • GB101 posted at 6:26 am on Fri, Nov 15, 2013.

    GB101 Posts: 2

    A big protest, the Equal Opportunity Office, and the GBI. My goodness, what a big to do over some vulgar language on a Facebook page.

    It seems clear that the person under whose name the posts were made is not the perpetrator of this horrid crime. What will happen if it turns out to be a hoax, perpetrated by a black student? It has happened often before. Well, if it is a hoax, it will still be evidence of pervasive racism. It always is. And someone will say something about a teachable moment.

     
  • mike9820 posted at 2:26 pm on Thu, Nov 14, 2013.

    mike9820 Posts: 1

    Really sad you can give your opinions but you do it undercover so nobody knows who you are. No guts huh. You are allowed to voice your opinion in this country. You can even wear your ghost uniform with the dunce hat on campus if you like. You don't have to hide.