In the shocking aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, fears that a Trump presidency would provoke a rise in xenophobia have already been confirmed. The last 48 hours have seen an unprecedented rise in hateful vandalism all over the country, including a shameful incident in which “Trump!” was written on the door of the NYU Muslim Students Association’s prayer room. Other incidents around the country have included racist graffiti and wide-scale harassment of various minority groups. In the face of this deplorable shift in our culture, it is the responsibility of educators and administrators to maintain an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
At the very least, it is comforting that swift action was taken as a result of this hateful act. President of the Tandon School of Engineering, Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, called the violation “an offense against us all.” In an email sent to the NYU community, NYU President Andrew Hamilton touched on the divisions caused by this election and emphasized the school’s role in moving forward. Many students across America feel unsafe in the wake of Trump’s victory, and as recent events have shown, they have reason to. To uphold NYU’s values of “open discussion, diversity and inclusion,” the school has to claim the responsibility of welcoming and protecting its students in marginalized communities. On-campus organizations like the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, the LGBTQ Student Center and the Muslim Students Association have been upfront in doing so, holding events for their members to express the school’s commitment to its minorities.
In light of all of this, it is time for NYU, as well as all educational institutions, to take a stance. This should not be against Trump himself — rather, some of the hateful and discriminatory policies he has presented over the course of his campaign. Universities as a whole champion the idea of a diverse, open and tolerant place to share opinions and thoughts without safety concerns. They should make clear that the university is not a space for hateful and bigoted actions. Universities have the obligation to educate the future generation. They must continue to uphold the idea that racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia and any other discriminatory beliefs are unacceptable. Administrators must make clear that any kind of attack on one of us is an attack on all of us and the ideals we hold dear.
On nearly every major American university’s website, there is a link to some sort of diversity and inclusion page. Years of legal battles have been fought over affirmative action and other programs designed to ensure that women and students of color are entitled to their equal education. For schools, to allow the despicable incidents of abject racism, sexism and hatred to go unpunished is to say to minority students that their education — and even their lives — do not matter as much as those of their white male peers. Obviously, the political climate right now is not conducive to civil discourse and campus inclusivity, but that is still no excuse. University administrators need to come down hard on bigots, even if they are donors, even if they are students. Every school needs to set a clear precedent: following in the hateful footsteps of our new president-elect is both unacceptable and inexcusable. This is not merely a matter of differing political opinion. This is about the safety and security of our students. Universities are the first line of defense in the battle for America’s future against the incoming waves of hatred and bigotry, and at this critical juncture, administrators cannot back down from the challenge.
Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]