By Rachel S. Hunt and Jermaine Rowley
After University of Maryland Police responded to a swastika and anti-LGBT speech in dorms last weekend, some students are feeling rattled.
“It’s scary,” said Madeline Redding, a resident of Queen Anne’s Hall, where University Police are investigating a string of anti-LGBT hate bias incidents. “As a member of the LGBT community myself, it’s terrifying to go back there. They still don’t know who it was.”
Incidents like this aren’t new for a university community still reeling from the May 2017 stabbing of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins, a black Bowie State University student who was visiting campus. Sean Urbanski, a white former student of this university, has been charged with a hate crime and first-degree murder in Collins’s death.
Last fall, 27 hate bias incidents were reported to university officials between the first day of the semester and Dec. 8, and the administration verified 15 of them. On two different occasions, former university employees were charged with malicious destruction of property after offensive writings, including a swastika, were found on university property.
Redding, a freshman journalism major, said the incidents began when her friend saw a message reading “This is gay” written on her whiteboard on Aug. 30 in Queen Anne’s, which is home to the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House living-learning program.
Her friend wrote back “Whoever erased my message and said this is gay, a member of the LGBT community lives here. Words hurt,” Redding said.
Later that day, Redding and her neighbor wrote on the whiteboard “Queen Anne’s against hate.” But as of Aug. 31 the message had been changed to “Queer Anne’s against hate.”
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the harassment continued.
At about 2 a.m., two people who Redding said were “probably drunk,” banged on her friend’s door and yelled “You’re so gay.” They also jiggled the door handle and tried to get in, Redding said.
On Saturday night, Department of Resident Life officials held a meeting for students about the incidents.
During the meeting, the officials informed students that police were investigating the incidents, and explained resources for students affected by hate bias, Redding said.
[Read more: UMD announces its new hate bias response coordinator]
In April, the university hired a hate/bias response program manager to lead efforts to support individuals affected by hate and bias on the campus.
One month later, university President Wallace Loh signed off on the University Senate task force’s recommendations, which included establishing a policy to prohibit intimidating conduct based on an individual’s protected class.
Students in Queen Anne’s Hall received a written statement from Mary Breaker, the resident director on duty at Queen Anne’s Hall, Redding said.
“Incidents such as this one have the potential to hurt all of us in the community. As students living in the residence halls, each of you deserves respect and to feel you have a rightful place in our community,” the statement read. “As a community, we must work together to support each other in our goal to create an inclusive and welcoming campus for all.”
University Police also responded Sept. 2 to a report of a swastika drawn on a students’ whiteboard in La Plata Hall.
Vivian Borbash, a freshman electrical engineering major, said she saw a swastika drawn on her whiteboard, erased the symbol and responded with a message saying “You suck.”
The hall’s fourth floor resident assistant noticed this and reported the drawing to the police. Borbash said neither she nor any of her roommates are Jewish.
In a statement released Thursday, this university’s NAACP chapter called for more transparency from university administrators on diversity issues. The incidents from last weekend, coupled with what the chapter characterized as a delayed response from university officials to the death of former football player Jordan McNair, make for a concerning lack of urgency and authenticity, the statement read.
“Students should not have to wait for the Diamondback or a national network to publish an article before the university president acknowledges that an incident has occurred,” the statement read.
On Aug. 14, two months after McNair died of heatstroke suffered at a football team workout, Loh accepted “legal and moral responsibility” for what happened. It came after ESPN reports of a “toxic” culture surrounding the football program.
CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that two individuals in Queen Anne’s Hall made anti-LGBT comments and attempted to enter a room in the building in the early hours of Sunday morning. This occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning. This story has been updated.