Hate speech conversations continue

Students, faculty and administration respond to incidents of antisemitic and racist hate speech on the Hamline campus.

Lydia Meier, News Reporter

*Content warning: this piece includes details of racially motivated and antisemitic incidents on the Hamline campus.*

After two incidents of hate speech on the Hamline campus in September, students have responded by asking the administration for transparency and action. The first incident occurred in a Hamline dorm on Sept. 9, when an unidentified individual wrote a racist slur on the door of a dorm room. Weeks later, on Sept. 27, a first-year posted an image of the cover of “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler on a class Jamboard. 

President Miller’s office sent out an email on October 5 condemning the incidents as “unacceptable” and promising more transparent responses. For more information on the specifics of the incidents, see the October 13 issue of the Oracle.

Many student leaders on campus felt strongly about the events, including sophomore Kue Thao. 

“As an RA, I was definitely furious … I wish I had more power as an RA to really help the residents that went through the incident,” Thao said. “As a student and a student of color, I was definitely woken up that there are still … racist students everywhere.” 

She has heard students express that they feel unsafe on campus following this incident, as has Jazmin Clausen-Thomas, an RA and Hamline junior.

Clausen-Thomas has heard multiple first-years talk of transferring. 

 “[They are] saying that they’re considering transferring because they don’t feel safe or heard and it breaks my heart because I know no institution is perfect but I feel like Hamline can do so much more,” Clausen-Thomas said.  

She said that as an RA, she feels “tasked with stepping up with this issue,” and that it has taken a toll on her mental health. 

“I’ll always say Hamline is diverse, but not inclusive,” Clausen-Thomas said, an issue she thinks needs to be addressed.

Clausen-Thomas is the president of the Black Student Collective (BSC) at Hamline, where students have been talking about the incident of hate speech in the dorms. The BSC vice-president Fatima Menawa, a junior, found out from a first-year about the incident at BSC’s first meeting. As vice-president, she reminds students of BSC’s support.  

“Our reaction to this is like, how do we support Black students and how do we be there for Black students and hold space for them,” Menawa said. 

She says if any students need support, BSC meetings are on Thursdays from 4-5pm in GLC 100E, but mentions that students should identify their privilege, and take part in conversations respectfully.

“Hamline as a system doesn’t know how to handle racism and sometimes they don’t know how to look for their blind spots,” Menawa said.  

She would like if there was a university standard for how a student would be held accountable in instances like this.

Associate Vice President of Inclusive Excellence David Everett says that his office does not have a policy on hate speech, but believes it could fall under the student conduct policy. 

“I recognize the level of frustration and concern” that students have, Everett said. “My office, Vice President of Student Affairs, will be hosting campus convening conversations to think about and talk about what students would like to see from a structural standpoint in response to some of these things but then also help us to think about what can we begin to create … from a policy standpoint that gets at and tackles at some of this type of behavior.”

With the incident in the dorms, it’s difficult to show this accountability because the individual responsible remains unidentified, as there are no cameras in the dorm hallways. However, students still see many ways that the university could hold itself responsible to the community, and especially students of color. 

Clausen-Thomas, for one, wants Hamline to make more of an effort to create required discussions for students. Thao wants professors to speak about racism more during their lectures. 

“Students can start to gain more knowledge and help each other more,” Thao said. 

In the meantime, Menawa has a message for students: “Be each others’ communities … Speak out and protect people.”

The incident of antisemitism three weeks later on Sept. 27 has led to similar calls for accountability from students and faculty.

Dr. Trevor Maine, who serves as adviser to the Oracle and teaches the class where the incident occurred, says he’s never heard so many students say they feel unwelcome on campus, and believes that “if students feel unsafe on campus, we need to address that. And we need to address that in systemic ways, as well as interpersonal ways, and cultural ways.”

Just as students need transparency from the administration, Maine acknowledges that students need responses from their professors. 

“To do that,” he said, “professors need to be prepared for these kinds of situations. That means we need training [and] reporting processes that hold individuals accountable and model transparency at every level.”

An anonymous member of the Jewish community at Hamline also believes that faculty lack training, and a “basic understanding of antisemitism and how it works.” However, they also feel unsupported by their fellow students. 

“Hamline students need to realize that they have work to do and that yes, they are complacent and part of the problem,” they said.

The incident has been disheartening for Jewish students at Hamline. Eva Silberman is a Jewish Hamline senior, who initially felt sad, when she found out about the incident in the email from President Miller’s office. 

“I had Jewish students reach out to me saying they didn’t feel safe on campus … My first day at Hamline I didn’t feel safe because I was Jewish.” Silberman said, who can only name seven to ten Jewish students at Hamline.  “When these antisemitic things happen, it starts to feel very targeted.”

In a call for institutional action and accountability, Silberman made an Instagram post titled “Protect Jewish students” that has been shared over 300 times. Readers can view the post on her account, @eva_sibs.

Besides feeling unsatisfied by President Miller’s email, Jewish students have expressed an issue with its spelling of antisemitism. In the email, the event is referred to as “anti-Semitic” which Jewish people have advocated against for decades. 

According to holocaustremembrance.com, “The hyphenated spelling allows for possibility of something called ‘Semitism’, which not only legitimizes a form of pseudo-scientific racial classification that was thoroughly discredited by association with Nazi ideology, but also divides the term, stripping it from its meaning of opposition and hatred toward Jews.”

When Silberman read the email, she felt shocked.

“[Hamline] should know how to spell the issue they’re talking about,” she said.

 Silberman had a conversation last week with President Miller, and feels positive about the outcome of the meeting. 

“I truly felt that President Miller was being thoughtful and kind with what she was saying,” Silberman said. 

She feels that Jewish students can see Miller as an advocate in educating the campus community about antisemitism.

The anonymous member of the Jewish community urges Hamline students, faculty and administration to educate themselves. 

“If you want to be an ally to Jewish people, start at the very basics. Read about who the Jewish people are,” they said. “Jewish people and history doesn’t just exist in the context of the Bible or the Holocaust. There is well over 3,000 years of history, development, struggle, persecution, joy, beauty, and survival to learn about. Myjewishlearning.com is a great resource, the ADL, Hillel, Rootsmetal on instagram, even Jewish Student Life at Hamline would be a good place to start.”

  Conversations continue between students, faculty, staff and administrators about how best to support and educate the campus community as Hamline moves forward. 

Any students affected by either of these incidents can reach out to campus resources such as Wesley Center staff (including Rabbi Adler and Chaplain Figueroa-Ray) and Counseling and Health Services (counselinghealth@hamline.edu) or to student organizations like Black Student Collective (blackstudentcollective@hamline.edu) and Jewish Student Life (hujsa@hamline.edu).


Disclaimer: Dr. Trevor Maine is the adviser of the Oracle. He was used as a source in this article without overseeing in an advisory-capacity.