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Response to hate crimes not enough

We at The Weekly feel it is time for us to respond to recent events on campus that can only be categorized as hate crimes. From the posters put up in protest of Columbus Day in the Fall of 2005 that were taken down to the recent defacement of posters from the Muslim Student Association, the Mills Disability Alliance and the Pagan Alliance, we have a growing and serious problem here on the Mills campus.

Racism and discrimination can come in many forms and be displayed in many ways, and we cannot and will not tolerate these behaviors. There is no such thing as a minor event in these instances.

Students, the ASMC, faculty and staff should not keep silent about these incidents. And in particular, the President of the College should address these matters openly with the student body and make it known that she will not tolerate these malicious practices.

Senior Tee Sullivan, who agreed to let us publish a letter written to President Janet Holmgren in response to derogatory statements written on posters announcing events surrounding Ramadan, spoke for many students. Sullivan called for the President to hold a mandatory meeting for all students to address the College’s zero tolerance policy of hate crimes. Sullivan offered examples of similar meetings that have been held on college campuses across the nation.

In the spring of 2004, the president of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., Pamela Gann, cancelled classes for a day while students held protests, meetings and discussions. The cancellation was in response to a cross burning at one of CMC’s sister campuses, Harvey Mudd, and other hate crimes. In a statement to the college community she wrote, “One never lightly cancels classes, for to do so in some way suggests that we can be bullied by the perpetrators of such a heinous crime. Yet, we need every single person in this community to come together, to follow his or her conscience and to start a process of regaining control of our community.”

According to a U.S. Department of Justice guide dated June 1, 2000, one of the most effective ways to deal with hate crimes on campus is to call mandatory meetings for all students, faculty and staff. The document cited the example of a New England college that responded to prank phone calls targeting Jewish students. The college president addressed the student body directly. Committees were formed and anti-hate posters were produced
and hung all over campus. According to the Department of Justice, after these actions were taken, not one hate crime was reported for two years. In this case, the small size of the student body made it possible for the president to reach all of the students.

It’s clear that there are solutions for Mills to take back its community and that every member of the campus plays a role in making our students feel safe. No incident is too small, and every incident reminds students who have been targets of hate crimes how easily things can go from writing on posters to acts of violence.

It’s surprising how many students are unaware of the hate crimes that have occurred. President Holmgren’s silence about these acts is deafening. It’s also disappointing that ASMC isn’t addressing the issue. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and certainly won’t solve it. We realize that one meeting can’t solve racism, but opening up a dialogue is the only way to begin the process. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, in the end, “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”