Students speak out against West Campus bias

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Concerned students will host an open forum Tuesday night to discuss the issues of racism and oppression in the UT area and search for ways to combat them.

The decision to hold the forum came after recently reported incidents of bias in the UT area, including the throwing of a bleach-filled water balloon at a group of students, the use of racial slurs in West Campus and the use of the term “Middle Eastern” by UT officials when describing the accent of Friday’s still unidentified bomb threat caller. The forum will feature several student panelists describing their experiences with bias while at UT. It will focus on bias in the forms of gender, sexual orientation and racial discrimination, as well as discrimination in the form of Islamophobia.

Anthropology freshman Taylor Carr will be one of the panelists speaking at the event.

Carr said she was called a racial slur while visiting UT last spring and was nearly hit by an unidentified assailant with a bleach-filled water balloon while walking through West Campus last month, a type of racially motivated attack she calls “white-washing.”

“We experience so much racism in West Campus and in Austin in general,” she said. “We just need to do something about it.”

Lucian Villasenor, Mexican American studies senior and co-planner of the event, said he believes it will be more effective than similar events in the past because it is being put on by students, not the University administration.

“If there is going to be any kind of change, it’s going to come [from the students],” Villasenor said. “It’s going to require action from us to make them pass a policy or make any real change.”

Although there are currently more than a dozen organizations battling campus discrimination at UT, including the newly developed Campus Climate Response Team and the Gender and Sexuality Center, the students organizing the forum said it is not enough, as incidents of bias still seem to occur regularly.

Ryan Miller, Campus Climate Response Team lead member and senior program coordinator for UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the University’s initiatives are effective in lessening campus discrimination, but bias is still an issue. He said the organization of the students is a move in the right direction.

“I think it’s very smart to have that unity, and I think that the Campus Climate Response Team would be very happy to see students and employees coming together and formulating their own response to campus bias, to using their own voices,” Miller said.

Miller said the level of campus bias that exists is a very difficult thing to gauge, but he does think UT is reducing it overall.

“When you take kind of the long view, there has been a lot of progress over the years,” Miller said. “It’s not always as quickly as we would like, but if you do look back a few years, you can see a change.”

The forum, titled “Student Speak Out: Racism and Oppression,” will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in UTC 2.112A and is open to anyone who would like to attend.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Students rally against prejudice