At its meeting Wednesday, a University of Maryland Senate committee discussed expanding this university’s ban of symbolically hateful items, including nooses, from athletic events to all campus facilities.
This university currently bans symbols of hate and intimidation from athletic events, a policy to prevent incidents of hate that occurred in other Big Ten schools, said Campus Affairs Committee member Lance Yonkos.
The 21-member group was charged by the Senate Executive Committee to decide whether to implement the campuswide prohibition of hate symbols and intimidation. The charge also asks them how to make such a change by reviewing existing policies, receiving feedback from students and faculty, and having consultations with people who will be affected by the change.
Committee chair Gene Ferrick expressed an urgency of expanding this ban as a result of recent incidents on the campus, including the swastika found in the Plants and Sciences building and the death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins on the campus.
Collins, a black student at Bowie State University, was fatally stabbed on the campus in May. A white former student at this university was charged with murder, and the incident is being investigated to determine whether it was a hate crime. “I was waiting for a charge and I got the charge, which we are going to talk about. I wanted to get working on it right away,” Ferrick said at the start of the meeting.
The committee agreed that they must prioritize defining “symbols of hate and intimidation” and learn about any limitations of the policy they create, including whether it can be implemented in off-campus facilities associated with this university.
However, several committee members were confused about how to start approaching such a broad issue.
Member Gerald Miller suggested that before they “start doing much,” they should meet with the office of general counsel to discuss existing policies and legal barriers that may prevent them from taking action.
“I unfortunately have been following much of [such incidents] for the last four decades,” said Miller, a professor in the computer, mathematics and natural sciences college. “[There] are so many interlocking things that have to do with constitutional freedoms and laws and policies [that] I think we are going to have to do almost all of this work as a corporate body.”
Ferrick announced that in the next meeting they plan to welcome a legal team and representatives from local police to discuss policy limitations before they work any further.
Depending on the outcome of the next meeting, the group also considered to meet more frequently before their deadline of March 30. They are currently scheduled to meet about once a month.
While unsure of how to tackle the issue of symbols of hate and intimidation on the campus, the members were eager to get on board and agreed with the Ferricks’s call for a speedy response, said Luke Jensen, a committee member and the director of LGBT Equity Center.
“I want to voice the critical need to do something,” Jensen said. “Let us not forget that last spring we had a noose in one of our fraternity houses. We need to be doing something about that kind of behavior.”
The committee’s next meeting is Oct. 26.