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May 22 2017
by Melissa Cordell

University of Maryland Students Share Their Experiences with School's Toxic Culture

By Melissa Cordell - May 22 2017

University of Maryland students have taken to Twitter to share their experiences with a noninclusive campus environment. Racist, sexist and xenophobic events have worsened, heightening at the death of Richard Wilbur Collins, whose stabbing and murder at University of Maryland, College Park is now being looked at as a possible hate crime. 

Students and some teachers, are expressing how they feel about how UMD President Wallace Loh and administration have handled campus happenings, using the hashtag #FearTheTurtle. Most of the frustration stems from the lack of concern from campus officials about student's feelings and lives.

Events that have led up to this one have included a noose found hanging in a frat house and racial slurs being written on the sidewalks. 

"There is definitely tension and a fear of what could happen amongst the students, especially the students of color," Gislaine Hoyah, a sophomore community health major at UMD, said via Twitter DMs. "We are all very angry that the administration is allowing the students who contribute to these events to persist. I think a general feeling of being ignored and second class as students is common."

Hoyah's Tweet about UMD

When asked about how Loh and administration handled the events, she said: "They refer to these events as dialogue and a method for continuing a conversation. But that does nothing for us as they ignore our advice and willingness to combat the tensions."

Rabia Dhanani, a sophomore double majoring in English and sexuality and culture studies, said via Twitter DM's these big negative events happen monthly but "micro aggressions and smaller incidents like fights with frat guys and such happen daily to weekly."

Dhanani's Tweet about UMD

Dhanani was blocked out by her professor the day after the 2016 presidential election. She described trying to voice her opinions and feelings in class about Donald Trump being elected. Dhanani said she was the only person of color in the classroom and was told she was "being disrespectful." She delivered her speech, but was laughed at by her own classmates while she was crying, and the professor did not do anything. 

She said: "I actually took part in a rally that night held by Protect UMD, in which I was able to voice my opinions and get comfort from others feeling the same way. Often times we hold these protests and rallies [help] but, the president refuses to listen or address our needs. We have brought it to social media to bring attention to this issue because we know that our involvement in the campus setting won't receive recognition from our president until he is looked down upon on a larger platform such as Twitter."

Erica Fuentes, a senior majoring in government and politics, met with Loh in December of 2016. 

Fuentes spoke to him about having a "mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for students/faculty" and he responded to her telling her it was a "waste" and asking "why even try?" 

Protect UMD, a student group that helps minorities on campus, made of list of 64 demands in February 2017 after the meeting. 

Fuentes said the demands were met the same way her talk with the president went, "admin originally promised to hear us out and work with them after our actions on campus and following the meeting with them they sent us an email saying that they were disengaging from working with us."

She said: "It's events like this [Collins death] that keep proving to me and other organizers that our work is needed more than ever. This hate crime has been a build up of the numerous hate incidents that have happened on campus over the course of the last year."

A graduate student instructor who wishes to remain anonymous because she "believe the focus should be on the experiences of those who have been punished for merely existing on UMD's campus and its surrounding areas--not on me," has experienced and seen what students on campus are referring to on Twitter. 

"I experience a great deal of sexism on UMD's campus," she said, "[but] I am not as egregiously subject to racial violence, and certainly not to the level of police intimidation or threat."

Continuing on, she said: "These experiences are aided and abetted by structures and procedures that allow discrimination and abuse to flourish. The expectation that vulnerable students must relentlessly petition those in power for help, when those in power are the ones systematically endangering and threatening them on a regular basis in the first place, conveniently shifts blame and critique onto victims of discrimination."

Alexis Ojeda-Brown a senior double majoring in English and history, said this is "a message for those who think student activism is crying wolf. 

Ojeda-Brown's Tweet about UMD

"We said we had these problems, we have said it for years, no one believed us or they thought we were exaggerating," she said. "How could stuff like this happen in a 'post-racial' society? Some think we want the attention and make any little thing into a problem. No one listened to us, and unfortunately the carelessness and ignorance of others cost someone their life and my heart hurts for the victim and his family, and Bowie States community."

Below are more students who are unsatisfied with UMD's handling of campus racism, xenophobia and sexism.

Lead Image Credit: IntelliGrad A HMG Property via Flickr Creative Commons

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Melissa Cordell - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Melissa Cordell is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in Political Science and Peace, War & Defense, with a Women's Studies minor. She loves working on campaigns, activism and writing. Follow her on Instagram @meldelissacor and Twitter @MM_Cordell!

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