Tania Luma |Guest Columnist
Tania Luma is an attorney and an adjunct professor at DePaul University.
How a university responds to its stu-dents sets the tone for the campus–it sets the expectations. In regards to recent racist comments by students, North Carolina State University acknowledged racism is wrong. However, the university stated through several officials it could not act further because of First Amendment rights to free speech. e university set a tone. Nothing can be done when racism is exposed. When you expose racism, we can’t act.
To examine this issue as just a First Amendment issue disregards the humanity of the students.The students have been wronged. They have been judged and demeaned for being black. They have been disrespected for supporting social justice issues.
Though, there is no punishment for making racist comments due to the First Amendment, it is too simplistic to move on and concede nothing further can be done. Students want actions that exhibit the university believes racism is wrong. Students want actions exhibiting that racism is not toler- ated on campus. When considering how the university should exhibit such values, perhaps other issues of importance should be considered. Examine other issues where universities are clear about not tolerating certain actions–because it harms the greater whole. These issues are discussed in orientations, faculty/staff are trained to deal with the issues, forums are held for campus-wide communication, handbooks and policies are written and student input is sought. These are just some ways important issues are addressed.
Simply stating that punishment is not an option when students display racism disregards students of color and their col- lective value to the university. It implicitly encourages the maltreatment of black students. The reaction from the university results in further feelings of helplessness, anxiety and tension surrounding race relations.
However, universities typically recognize value in treating its students as humans that deserve respect and consideration. ey set a tone where students feel safe. ey provide leadership. It is your jobto create an atmosphere where they can live on campus and attend classes with a rmation that university is looking out for their best interests. I encourage uni- versity o cials to examine a better way to respond to racist behaviors. Even greater, collaborate with students to create meth- ods that exhibit racism is not tolerated by the university.