In recent weeks, a slew of racist and derogatory posters have been hung around UMBC’s campus. Many of the posters appear to have been posted by self-proclaimed UMBC Alt-Right and urge their readers to “embrace white identity” while promoting “Identity, Order, and Strength.”
A majority of the posters were quickly removed or defaced by concerned students.
While the student body immediately went to action to show that it would not stand for intolerance on campus, President Freeman Hrabowski and Provost Philip Rous penned an email to the UMBC campus with regards to the racist posters.
The email, in essence, stated that the posters were removed simply because they did not comply with the UMBC posting policy. It noted the violation of requirements such as “that posted materials include the name of a sponsoring organization and that they be posted on fixtures designed to hold advertisements.” There was nothing in the email to condemn the derogatory messages of the posters.
When it comes to political debates, it is obvious that institutions like UMBC tread a fine line in taking a stance on whatever the issue is at hand, especially given the presumably diverse and varying beliefs of the student body. This, however, is not a political debate. This is a clear case of right and wrong.
In today’s politically divided and inflammatory world, it is more important than ever that UMBC, a highly respected institution in the academic community, takes a clear and unwavering position on what is right and what is wrong.
Even so, as a scholarly institution, UMBC must hold the utmost respect for the right to free speech that is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. It must allow different voices to be heard and should attempt to facilitate discussion between those differing voices. However, while discourse should always be encouraged, derogatory messages should never be accepted.
If UMBC is to say that it prides itself on its “inclusive excellence [and] social justice,” as noted in the campus-wide email regarding the posters, it must take a firm stance to say that hate speech and racism will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Sanjay Mysore, a freshman mechanical engineering major, said “[the administration] should have addressed how [the posters] were something that was not okay and not acceptable to have posted because of their hateful messages.”
Students who are generally proud to attend an institution that is so diverse and inclusive may be incredibly disheartened to receive such a lackluster response to injustice. It is even more disheartening when that response (or lack thereof) comes from the administration that should be defending the principles it proclaims to hold so dearly and support the students who reflect those principles.
It is not enough for an administration that espouses its commitment to social justice to simply remove the posters for not following proper posting protocol. If it is truly committed to social justice, then UMBC must clearly show that intolerance will never be tolerated.