Editor’s Note: This article features offensive language including the N-word and other expletives.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Colin Bryd was quoted as saying “I don’t believe that President Loh cares about black people, and I don’t believe that President Loh cares about white people. Period.” He was misquoted. His true statement now reads:
“I don’t believe that President Loh cares about black people, and I don’t believe that President Loh cares about women. Period.”
One sign read: “Not a nigger girl,” followed by “#OccupyStamp” and “#OccupyFratRow.”
None of the signs were cautious.
Gathering in Stamp’s Baltimore Room, students took care and diligence to create signs of resonance, preparing to revolt against a recently published email sent by a former Kappa Sigma fraternity more than a year ago. Linda Clement, the vice president of student affairs, stated in a campuswide email March 25 that the student who composed the message would not be returning to the university this semester.
Select protesters expressed displeasure toward President Wallace Loh’s response to the email as well as the university’s. Clement stated in the email that the “University’s investigation into the incident is continuing and due process will be completed before any final determinations are made.”
Activists also demanded the following, among other requests:
- More funding for multicultural programs on campus
- Pre-rush diversity training hosted and led by minority student organizations
- Discussion of bargaining rights and minimum wage for all campus workers
- A name change for Byrd Stadium
- More funding for the Nyumburu Cultural Center and for the building to be a part of the university’s tour guide route
They travelled from Stamp to Frat Row and concluded at the Kappa Sigma house.
While at Stamp, onlookers observed from the food court as friendly protesters greeted each other.
Loh was present during the poster-making session. He toured the room and spoke with students about what brought them there. Some students spoke with perceived animosity.
Loh responded to questions about his references to free speech during his previous #LohChat session via social media March 13 as well as an email he sent to the university March 17.
“I am an officer of the state of Maryland. I chose to come to this country,” Loh said. “My family fled from China. Some of them went to prison and died for expressing their views, without due process.”
One protester sat quietly with a sign in his lap that read “Free speech equals, ‘F*ck consent’?”
Students began to chant: “When I say student, you say power” and “no justice, no peace,” interrupting Loh’s discussion.
Colin Byrd, a student and the chairman of national membership for this university’s NAACP chapter argued that the campus should not have a facility – Byrd Stadium – named after a man who turned students away based on their race.
He also demanded an adequate response to “a rush week full of rape and an email full of hate,” – in relation to the email’s content.
The speakers took turns standing in front of the crowd, some calling for more funding for campus organizations such as the Nyumburu Cultural Center. This organization has been on campus since 1971, offering seminars and classes in blues, jazz, gospel music and more. It encourages engagement in the African Diaspora culture and history.
After multiple speakers, Byrd, a senior sociology major, lept onto the chair again.
“I know I’m probably going to get in trouble for this. I’m going to say this because I believe it,” Byrd said. “I don’t believe that President Loh cares about black people, and I don’t believe that President Loh cares about women. Period.”
Students glanced around and there was a mixture of awe and surprise. Loh was concealed behind a crowd of protesters, his reaction unclear.
The protesters united once again and began to chant.
About 100 students shuffled out of Stamp, laughing and chanting. The mood was friendly but serious as protesters held their signs and strode quickly down the mall toward Baltimore Avenue.
As they arrived at the edge of campus, cars began to honk and Julian Ivey, freshman undecided, began to chant:
“I don’t know what I’ve been told, Racist frats have got to go.”
A Shuttle-UM bus honked repeatedly, the driver shaking his fist out of the window in perceived solidarity. The passion intensified and a female voice took over the megaphone, shouting, “Yes means yes and no means no,” her voice trembling slightly, but not with fear.
The group crossed Baltimore Avenue and came upon frat row. The first fraternity home the group passed was the Kappa Alpha Order, where about five brothers sat on their porch and watched, but declined to comment.
As the group moved steadily past the row of fraternity homes, select onlookers retreated inside while others halted for a moment out of perceived curiosity.
A group of sorority sisters remained on their porch.
After marching down Baltimore Avenue, the protesters reached the Kappa Sigma house.
Ivey and senior government and politics major Moriah Ray, and a few others, rushed up the steps and began knocking on the door.
Protesters stood eagerly on the sidewalk in front of the house, alternating between scattered chanting and swaying back and forth on their toes as they tried to get a glimpse of what was happening.
The muttering escalated into shouts as someone yelled, “The lights are on, I see you in there!”
A few students broke into a chorus, shouting “come out” and “are you scared?”
Ray encouraged open forum on the walkway, and the others ceased knocking on the door.
Tatiana Taylor, a senior criminology major, was one of the first to stand. She said she was angry that select fraternity and sorority members appeared to be disinterested.
The protest concluded with a resounding “Student power!” as activists raised their fists.
The Student Government Association and the Office of Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy will co-host a Town Hall meeting Thursday at 3 p.m. in Stamp’s Colony Ballroom, in order to further discuss the issues raised by the email.
Attendees will include Loh, Linda Clement, the vice president of student affairs, Matt Supple, director of the department of fraternity and sorority life, and Chief Diversity Officer Kumea Shorter-Gooden.
Raye Weigel is a freshman English and community health double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.