On April 5, 2012, Ohio State University’s Black Cultural Center was vandalized with the words “Long Live Zimmerman,” referring to shooter George Zimmerman, who shot unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.
This incident of hate brought to light concerns of safety and inclusion, and lead to the creation of the No Place For Hate Task Force. In this article, which is republished with permission from college newpaper, The Lantern, editor Caitlin Essig describes the work of the No Place For Hate Task Force and its role in the Ohio State community.
The words “Long Live Zimmerman” spray-painted on the side of the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center on Ohio State’s campus caused a ripple effect. A task force was formed to combat hate on campus, and a year later, it has accomplished some of its goals.
The painted words were discovered the morning of April 5, 2012, on the west exterior wall of Hale Hall.
Roughly a month earlier, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Officials said the words were likely spray-painted on Hale Hall in response to the incident.
The act of vandalism on Hale Hall was dubbed a hate crime by campus officials, and in response, the No Place For Hate Task Force was formed. In an April 16, 2012, Lantern article, No Place For Hate chairwoman and vice president of Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston said the task force’s goal was to “hear what concerns are to ensure Ohio State is no place for hate, and to come up with potential solutions to present to a diversity workgroup.”
Some concerns of students following the hate crime were expressed in an April 5, 2012, meeting of the Board of Trustees. A group, which dubbed itself the OSU Stand Your Ground Movement, attended the meeting and presented its demands, which included hate crime alerts, increasing diversity in students and faculty and for policies and programs promoting inclusion, rather than simply tolerance. In a March 25 interview with The Lantern President E. Gordon Gee called the students’ presentation a high point for the university.
“It was a high point in the fact that rather than in particular our minority students, our African-American students in this particular instance, instead of them just reacting and overreacting, or underreacting, however, what they did is they got together, they had a conversation, they came in mass, a large group of them came over to the Board of Trustees meeting the next day, they came in, they made a wonderful presentation, very persuasive, and then they left,” Gee said.
The task force, led by Adams-Gaston and Valerie Lee, vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer, met five times throughout last April. As a result, it made short- and long-term recommendations in the areas of awareness, climate and recruitment/retention. The task force defined short-term recommendations as within one year and long-term recommendations as within two to five years.
In the area of awareness, some short-term goals have been met, such as the implementation of hate crime alerts. The most recent hate crime alert was issued April 16, 2012. Adams-Gaston said the university has also implemented at least one of the short-term climate goals. “We’ve also created the opportunity for OSU students to select a preferred name (in OSU student systems such as BuckeyeLink),” Adams-Gaston said. “There were students who would like to have the ownership of what they’re called be their own, as opposed to the system just saying, ‘OK your name is John Jones.’ I might want to be known by another name, and the system now has that ability.”
Only long-term goals were made in the area of recruitment and retention. A report on which and how many of the 12 short-term goals have been met was not available Wednesday night. Kyle Strickland, president and co-founder of The Network, a new student organization that helped organize “No Place For Hate Week,” was among the students making the call for change last April. “No Place For Hate Week” began Monday and aims to raise student awareness about racism on campus. It has consisted of various events designed by a handful of student organizations collaborating with The Network to facilitate an end to discrimination at OSU.
Strickland, a fourth-year in political science, took part in a sit-in at the Ohio Union on April 6, 2012, which was organized to call for the university to issue a hate crime alert. The sit-in began at noon and the alert was issued at about 4:45 p.m., according to the No Place For Hate Taskforce Report and Recommendations. “There was definitely a response of how do we act, how do we react from here,” Strickland said. “I remember right after (the sit-in) going to the Hale Center and listening to, kind of, making sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again in our backyard.” He said “No Place For Hate Week,” along with the sit-in and formation of the task force last year, was all about how to help people and prevent future hate crimes. “The task force that Dr. J has put together with Valerie Lee is really impressive, and really working on improving the way things work at an administrative level, and we’re focused on how we can work together at the student level,” Strickland said.
Gee said he agrees with Lee’s approach to the task force and the issue of diversity. “Lee … is a very serious proponent of dealing with these issues up front and trying to get a cultural conversation going, which I think has been very important,” Gee said. Strickland said the university has continued to progress since last year’s hate crimes and is glad to see students taking action. “A lot of ideas and solutions were offered,” Strickland said, “but what all too often happens is that no matter what issue it is that all too often after several days, weeks or months, people forget about it, and people go on with their lives. We want to make sure that we push forward.”
Gee agreed that accomplishments in the long run are important. “The question is not whether we say that we have solved it, the question is how will we carry on the conversation, which I think is the healthy part of what we do on a university campus, unlike in the general population,” Gee said. The task force created five standing committees to continue the work. Lee and various members of the task force did not respond to requests for comment.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and is awaiting trial. Jury selection for his case is set to begin June 10.
Republished with permission of The Lantern, thelantern.com, Ohio State University
Video: In this 1-minute clip from OSU, President E. Gordon Gee talks about Hale Hall