The University of Maryland must do more about hate crimes in the wake of a slaying on its campus.
In earning my master’s degree in public policy, I learned many important lessons — the most important being to speak up, loudly and clearly, when I disagree with something and to offer options and solutions.
Last weekend, I expected to celebrate with my cohort as we all wrapped up our graduate programs at the University of Maryland. Instead of enjoying this weekend, I woke early Sunday morning to emergency emails regarding a “homicide” on campus.
I learned that this was not just a homicide, but maybe a hate crime. A modern lynching.
Why in the year 2017 are we seriously discussing the possibility of the lynching of a black man on the University of Maryland’s campus the weekend of graduation?
Second Lt. Richard W. Collins III, a senior at Bowie State University, was set to graduate this past Tuesday. He was a role model: a hardworking student, dedicated son, caring brother and an active member of his church. He aspired to be a general in the Army and to serve our country. Instead, he was stabbed to death, perhaps just because of the color of his skin.
The university’s response until Wednesday was basically limited to a moment of silence at graduation ceremonies. This is not enough. By not taking decisive action against it, we — the members of the University of Maryland community — are tacitly condoning this horrific crime.
This crime may be shocking to many, but it isn’t to students and faculty. We have grown accustomed to hate speech and threats on campus going unpunished. From the Kappa Sigma email debacle, in which a fraternity member used racial epithets (hate speech) to describe people of different races and condone rape, to the display near McKeldin Mall of white supremacist posters that eerily resembled Nazi propaganda, to a noose found at the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house, the response from the administration has been negligent.
A moment of silence does not make us (people of color; religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; the disabled; and others) feel as if we are safe on this campus. Sending messages that these things will not be tolerated but then doing nothing to combat such hate does not instill confidence in students. These short-term, “sweep it under the rug” responses have failed us.
This is an old, recurring problem we face on our campus and across this country. The number of hate groups has soared in recent years.
Only this week, after a senseless death, did University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh offer changes to address the issue.
He has asked the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for a rapid-response team for hate crimes and said he would allocate $100,000 for diversity and inclusion efforts. Other efforts include annual reports on hate crimes, and the creation of a hate crimes and campus safety task force.
The radicalization that encourages people to pursue their goals through violence has gone far enough. I call on Loh to also punish those who have committed crimes, especially hate crimes, and to aid in the rehabilitation of those who may be at risk of doing so. These measures can be preventive as well as punitive and reactive.
I also request that we make use of the diversity tools we have at our disposal and incorporate them further into the curriculums for undergraduate and graduate students. Diversity initiatives should be fully integrated within our curriculums and within the culture of this institution.
The themes of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism must be consistently taught.
Because these horrific events have occurred on our campus, it is our responsibility to learn from this as we move forward for a better and more accepting world. This is the time that we need decisive action in the form of policy change and enforcement.
Darrin Branch adjusts a photograph of Richard W. Collins III, center, standing with his parents, at a memorial service for Collins in Bowie on May 22. Collins was stabbed to death while visiting the University of Maryland.