UMD president outlines 'action plan' to combat racism, hate

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The University of Maryland is taking action to combat hate and racism after a man was stabbed to death on campus.

“The investigation and prosecution of this heinous crime is underway… But we must do more,” UMD President Wallace D. Loh said in a letter to the university community Wednesday evening.

RELATED: New footage shines light on murdered Bowie State student

Loh outlined five actions—effective immediately—that are aimed at creating a safer and more inclusive environment at UMD:

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  1. Create a rapid-response team for any hate-bias incident
  2. $100,000 in funds to support diversity efforts that educate all members of the Terrapin community
  3. Develop and release an annual report on all hate-bias incidents on campus
  4. Strengthen athletics policy to prohibit hate-bias symbols or actions
  5. Establish a task force on hate-bias and campus safety

“This is the beginning,” Loh said in the letter. “There will be more actions once the task force submits its final recommendations.”

The action plan comes after students and alumni shared their own encounters with racism on campus using the hashtag #FearTheTurtle.

RELATED: UMD president called out on racism complaints

Student activist Erica Fuentes, who graduated this week, 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.” 

The UMD and Bowie State University communities are mourning the loss of Army Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III. The BSU student was on the College Park campus last weekend when he was stabbed to death while waiting at a bus stop.

RELATED: Investigators work to uncover motive in UMD stabbing

Collins was just days away from walking across the graduation stage. His family accepted his degree, while a chair with a graduation robe sat empty in the front row.

Police are still trying to determine if Sean Urbanski's unprovoked alleged attack on Lieutenant Collins was motivated by racial hatred. At this time he’s charged with first-degree murder.

More than 670 people signed an online petition calling on the university clearly define “hate speech” and increase its punishment. By Wednesday, the petition as at over 800 signatures.

The school’s Black Student Union President created the petition. Tamara Adams responded to the University’s Action Plan online tweeting, “I feel encouraged that administration is finally taking concerted action to address this heinous crime and hate-bias incidents. I hope that these efforts will be sustained in an effort to make change that empowers & ensures the mental & physical safety for Black Students.”

Here is President Loh’s full letter to the UMD community:

Dear University of Maryland community,

As we grieve the loss of Lt. Richard Collins III of Bowie State University, we must also act to combat hate and create a safer campus.

The investigation and prosecution of this heinous crime is underway, led by the State's Attorney for Prince George's County, supported by the Prince George's County Police Department, the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We must allow these law enforcement agencies the time to do their work with due diligence.

But we must do more. Based on advice I have received from a broad coalition of campus partners, I am announcing the following University actions, effective immediately.

1. We have asked the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) to create a trained, rapid-response team for any hate-bias incident. This action team -- comprised of faculty, staff, and students -- would provide support and services to any member of our community who is the subject of a hate incident.

2. We will allocate $100,000 in supplemental funds for the ODI to support diversity and inclusion efforts that educate all members of our community.

3. We will task the Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct to lead in the development and dissemination of an annual report on all hate-bias incidents on campus. This will provide information about incident rates and ongoing prevention, response and education measures.

4. We will ask the Athletic Council to immediately consider how to strengthen existing Intercollegiate Athletics policy to explicitly prohibit any hate-bias symbols or actions in any athletic venue, subject to immediate removal of the violator from that venue.

5. We will establish a task force on hate-bias and campus safety -- comprised of faculty, staff, students, and alumni -- to conduct a comprehensive review of all relevant university policies and procedures.  This task force will submit a final report with recommendations and guidelines to foster an environment where hate is not tolerated.

- It should engage the entire UMD community on difficult issues at the intersections of free speech, hate speech, and freedom of association.

- It should consider strengthened or new educational and curricular initiatives, and any special programming.

- And, it should work with UMD's communications staff on a public awareness effort to inform our campus community about its work.

This is the beginning. There will be more actions once the task force submits its final recommendations.

Today, UMD students, faculty, staff, and friends gathered for a moment of reflection to honor Lt. Collins and to draw strength from each other. We all want a culture that rejects hate and forges a more perfect union in our nation's rich multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity.

But these are fraught times, on our campus, across the nation, and the world. It is on all of us to stand up and fight the racism, extremism, and hate that are cancers in our body politic.

United by this recent tragedy, we can be a force for good. Together, we can be stronger and smarter than those who would divide us and subvert the values that undergird our University and our democracy.

Sincerely,

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland