UMD president called out on racism complaints
University of Maryland students shared their experiences dealing with racism in a social media campaign called #FearTheTurtle on Tuesday.
University of Maryland junior Clarissa Corey-Bey said she was a victim of overt racism in her first few weeks on campus.
“For the first time in my life, on Frat Row, I was called the N-word,” Corey-Bey recalled.
She posted her experience as a victim or witness of racism at UMD along with hundreds of others.
#FearTheTurtle being the only black man on the floor of my freshman dorm gave a coward the courage to call me the n word through the walls— Miles (@MilesHighClub_) May 22, 2017
A white boy in the honors college asking a Latina student if she would go back to Mexico if Trump won #FearTheTurtle— Kayla Imani 🌹 (@KaylaLittle_16) May 22, 2017
#feartheturtle joined a white frat and an elder brother goes: "welp I guess we can't use the n word anymore"...smh— 8_6_oh Bro (@Seniordipset) May 23, 2017
#FearTheTurtle this hashtag is so so sad...— ruth (@itss_ruth) May 23, 2017
The tweets are aimed directly at shaming university President Wallace Loh, who student activists accused of failing to do enough to stop an ugly undercurrent of racism infecting the campus.
Some said the climate is directly linked to the murder on campus of Bowie State senior Richard Collins III, allegedly by a UMD student with ties to a white supremacist Facebook group.
“This could have been prevented,” claimed student activist Erica Fuentes, who graduated this week.
In a Twitter storm beginning Monday, Fuentes accused Loh of ignoring student pleas for mandatory diversity training on campus.
Fuentes tweeted, “Had a convo w Pres. Loh about need for mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for students/faculty … he told me it was a waste.”
“…he immediately shut the idea down saying that racism wasn't something that could be fixed,” said Fuentes on camera Tuesday, “it was shattering,” she added.
She said the tweet came from a meeting she and the Hispanic student action group, PLUMAS, had with President Loh over the winter. She was also part of a second meeting with the group, Protect UMD. We’re told President Loh did not attend the second meeting but other university leaders were there.
Altogether, Fuentes says they presented some 80 demands for changes across campus. One change included more diversity training.
Fuentes showed us an email response from the Vice President for Student Affairs. This person wrote, “.. the University does not believe responding point-by-point to your growing set of demands is the most productive path towards a more diverse and inclusive campus.”
The email also mention there were already diversity training plans in the works but fast-forward some three months later to the fatal UMD stabbing.
Fuentes told WUSA9, "It honestly makes me feel really angry,”
She also said, “At main commencement, [President Wallace Loh] cried about the situation saying that he's heartbroken…to me and a lot of other students of color on this campus, other organizers, we believe that this could've been prevented."
We did ask a UMD spokesperson about Fuentes and that meeting. They didn’t answer our questions directly. Instead, what they said is, they’re going to roll-out an action plan to fight racism and hate on campus and they’re going to share the details with us. We’ll post it as-soon-as we get it.
The following is the full statement:
“The University of Maryland cares deeply about diversity and inclusion. Throughout the academic year and always, the university meets with students to hear concerns and works to foster an environment where we stand united against hate. In the days ahead, the university will roll out an action plan to accelerate our efforts to combat racism and extinguish hate in all its forms.”
“He did say that in his eyes it wasn’t something the administration had a role in preventing,” Fuentes claimed. She said she and a group of students, who call themselves #ProtectUMD, met with Loh in 2016.
The university has at least five administrative offices dedicated full time to issues related to diversity, inclusion, civil rights, and student conduct, as well as a detailed policy on reporting hate, bias, and race-related incidents.
In 2015, UMD dropped the name of past president William “Curley” Byrd from the stadium on campus. Students said it was a reminder of an era when African American students weren't welcome on campus. Byrd Stadium was renamed Maryland Stadium after intense pressure from student activists on Loh’s watch.
But student critics say the University has not been effective in curing an alleged subculture of hate that the #FearTheTurtle campaign aims to expose.