The next time students living in residence halls check their mailboxes, all the usual assortment of junk mail and bills will be accompanied by a bright red flyer, part of the new “Stop Hate” campaign at the University.
The campaign was prompted by a recent derogatory message scrawled across LSA freshman Alex Robinson”s dry-erase board: “I hate niggers.”
Though the message, accompanied with a drawing of a German swastika, was erased by his neighbors before Robinson had a chance to see them, he said he was still shocked and angered by them. And though the incident occurred three weeks ago, Robinson said it was a signal of a larger problem that many thought had dwindled.
“I am over it. I”ve talked to my parents and everything. I don”t want to be nonchalant and say it”s no big deal because it is a big deal,” Robinson said.
“I guess I”ve been sort of braced or prepared these things can happen,” he added.
But Robinson said the harassment sparked him to speak out for other students who have been victims of hate crimes but who have not reported them.
“After a couple days, I was more about action, what can I do to respond,” he said. “While this event is maybe over, (racism) isn”t over.”
Robinson said the support of his family, friends and classmates especially those in his Psychology 120 class “I, Too, Sing America,” which focuses on race and racism helped him to resolve the incident and take action.
Psychology Prof. Charles Behling said the first reaction the class had after hearing about the messages was to comfort Robinson, but soon the students” thoughts changed gears.
“They felt this was a question of action and not just feeling badly about it,” Behling said.
As a result, the class started mailing out flyers to students in Couzens, hoping that residents would show their support by posting them on their doors.
Behling said he was proud of his class for taking action and arousing awareness, but said he hoped their efforts to combat racism were not anything extraordinary.
“I think we need to ask ourselves what kind of people we would be if we didn”t respond to an outright act of hate,” he said.
As word of the harassment spread, LSA Student Government became involved. Robinson”s class chose to focus only on Couzens, but LSA-SG members are hoping to take the campaign against hate crimes campus-wide today through mailed letters and flyers that will decorate the halls around campus.
LSA-SG President Rachel Tronstein, an LSA junior, said the group took up the cause to spread awareness that hate crimes do happen on campus.
“I think that while it was horrible, it is a great educational opportunity,” Tronstein said. “The fact that it happened is indicative that the sentiment exists.”
LSA-SG also sought support from student groups on campus to help with flyering, and more than 60 groups signed on to help.
LSA freshman Ravi Perry, an LSA-SG representative and chair of the Ethnic Studies Task Force, said that, to him, the flyers” message was especially important because students don”t realize how often hate crimes occur.
“People think that it”s 2002 and they think that racism is over, and I disagree. I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Perry said.