By Naomi Harris
On a normal day, the office space is abuzz with students walking in and out, using the available couches and desks to perhaps do homework or hang out. Yet, this type of normalcy, the casual comfort, became a necessity for many students.
The Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy office turned into a haven the day after the election.
Moments later, another tweet went out: “We are here again today … please take the time to take care of yourself and each other. You are not alone.”
For the coordinators of MICA, despite their shock, they reached out to assist students trying to get through the day.
“We were processing it ourselves, but our number one priority was creating spaces for students to feel supported,” said Naliyah Kaya, MICA coordinator for Multiracial & Multicultural Student Involvement and Community Advocacy, including Native American Indian/Indigenous Student Involvement and Advocacy.
The University of Maryland claims diversity with 43.4 percent of the student population belonging to groups like black, Asian and Latinx. This number reflects diversity, but after Trump’s election, students wanted more than numbers for comfort.
“The ‘diversity’ of the university is good in theory, not in practice,” said Bria Sladden, senior finance and economics major and the president of Black Student Union.
“On paper, we have statistics and populations of black, Latinx and Asian students; however, day-to-day, these students feel disconnected and at times isolated.”
Indeed the results of the election incited numerous emotions and opinions from students and faculty.
“I think students, faculty and staff were a bit in shock, scared, concerned,” Kaya said.
“MICA, along with [the Office of Diversity and Inclusion] and other members of the campus community, invited students to our spaces to have a place they could come and talk about their fears and concerns.”
Concerns became a reality when the Title IX Office sent a campus-wide email to students, nine days after the election.
The subject read, “Reporting Incidents of Discriminations” and included the increase of “bias incidents and discriminatory conduct” on and outside of campus, according to Catherine Carroll, the director of the Office Of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct.
But the heightened amount of discriminatory occurrences in combination with the election created a conversation for action on campus.
“From what I’ve seen, the people that are the most vocal about the election are students of color and students who represent the populations Trump has verbally assaulted,” said Lauryn Froneberger, senior broadcast journalism and the president of the university’s NAACP chapter.
“A lot of the groups I’ve worked with in the past few weeks fall into those marginalized groups,” she said.
On Nov. 17, numerous student-led organizations coordinated a walkout.
Students left class to participate in the rally, and as soon as a large enough group surrounded Testudo in front of McKeldin, organizers such as Sladden informed the rally about why they needed to be in support of each other.
“The walkout was an equal and joint effort amongst members of marginalized communities across campus,” Sladden said. “We would meet and coordinate based on the needs of the varying communities.”
The walkout called “#ProtectUMD,” now the name of the student alliance group, created a platform for students who want change on the campus.
“It is a way for people in power on campus, like faculty and Loh, to physically see the emotions of the student body, to see the power,” said Morgan White, the community service chair of Community Roots.
“It should be a realization—a way for the student body to make very clear what we wanted and we did it with so much support,” White said.
After the rally, members of marginalized communities released demands to this university’s administration. The demands call for a more inclusive space on campus to improve experiences for students who might face discrimination.
“These demands were important to include as they further the diversity practices necessary on campus,” Sladden said. “The university needs to acknowledge the demands and make steps toward implementing some of them.”
The demands include communities for American Indian, black, latinx, LGBTQIA+, undocumented, Muslim and pro-Palestinian students.
“I have seen the black community and Latinx community unite forces on numerous occasions,” Sladden said. “But never have I seen black, Latinx, queer, Muslim, undocumented and many other marginalized communities unite and come together for something of this magnitude.”
Senior administrators met last Friday to discuss the #ProtectUMD demands, and as the semester comes to a close, the campus looks to a new semester with more tolerance.
“There has to be a level of basic respect for one another,” Kaya said. “It has to be clear that regardless of what is going on in the White House or Washington, we will continue to hold people accountable for their actions at UMD.”
Featured Photo Credit: Students rally to #ProtectUMD in organized walkout Nov. 17. (Joe Duffy/Bloc Reporter)
Naomi Harris is a senior multi-platform journalism and sociocultural anthropology double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.