Towson poses challenges to diversity it seeks to promote

letter to the editor

Last week, a campus group affiliated with a national organization with links to white supremacist and nazis held an event on the Towson University campus. The national organization keeps a “watchlist” of faculty and students they’ve targeted because of their viewpoints. In Maryland, the only faculty members on this watchlist are faculty of color. The list links to phone numbers and addresses so people can call to harass them. This fits a pattern of intimidation and threats designed to silence people who disagree with the group. Other universities and colleges have banned the “watchlist” and spoken out publicly against this blackmailing of faculty. Chancellor Kent Syverud of Syracuse University spoke out publicly about these watchlists in 2017. He said “protecting the academic freedom of professors who get blacklisted is a tradition at Syracuse University dating back to McCarthyism.” He urged members of the senate to step up to support their faculty.

As educators we call on administrators to disrupt the inroads of white supremacy on this campus and actively work towards building an environment where the concerns of students of color and other marginalized groups are the university’s mandate. Towson University is still a segregated university and is a location for white supremacist organizing right here on campus. In May of 2013 The White Student Union was an organization founded by a Towson student, who is a former member of Youth for Western Civilization. This group was the face of a new generation of white nationalists on campus.

While the University administration says that they promote inclusion, white nationalists groups threaten the very idea of inclusion. These groups fuel hatred and ignorance and have been vocal and a visible representation of fascism on our campus well-before the Trump era. Our campus poses daunting challenges to people of color, to LGBTQ+ students, and to the diversity it seeks to promote. When groups with links to national white supremacists meet on campus, their explicit intent is to mock diversity. In other words, their intent is to prevent dialogue, to prevent learning, and to intimidate discovery. These are the very values that make a university what it is.  

While we welcome teach-ins and similar interventions, we ask that Towson’s administration develop clear plans for addressing these threats. White supremacists represent the antithesis of our university’s ideals. We ask the administration to protect this university’s mission to educate. It is not enough to say that “we are a welcoming, diverse and inclusive campus”; we want action. We want commitments that result in material and structural changes for our university. These include a) hiring and retaining faculty of color b) releasing the results of the campus climate survey that was taken over a year ago c) developing support systems beyond the CSD for students of color, Muslim students and other students from marginalized religious groups, LGBTQ+ students who are under threat by such groups on campus. The Center for Student Diversity has taken on the task of providing structural support systems for and handling the complaints of hate biases on this campus. It cannot fall solely upon them to heal this broken community. We need campus-wide institutional leadership in both academic affairs and in student affairs.

– Concerned Members of the Social Justice Collective

(The Social Justice Collective is a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students committed to working for social and racial justice on and off campus.)

 

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