By Sean Strader
For the Mitzpeh
With a new student government in place for the next academic year, there are many issues it must set its sights on. However, with hostile messages still being posted around campus, maintaining a positive and welcoming environment around this university should hold a place of urgency on its agenda.
Last month, to go along with white nationalist and anti-Semitic posters on campus, there was a chalking in front of Stamp from Terps for Trump. It urged people to report Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and advocated the construction of a border wall. This kind of rhetoric around campus is not only nonsensical and morally wrong, but also incredibly troubling for those students who are targeted.
SGA President-elect A.J. Pruitt’s response to these messages of hate is inspiring and seems to indicate that he is willing to ensure that this rhetoric will not be tolerated. During the SGA presidential debate in April, Pruitt responded to a student’s concerns.
“Whether it is the Terps for Trump chalking or the white nationalist posters… I do not think that those messages have any place on this campus,” Pruitt said. “That is what prevents us from having a welcoming and safe campus for everyone.”
In the wake of bomb threats around the country directed towards the Jewish community, the last thing we need is anti-Semitic propaganda posted on campus to make Jews feel even more threatened.
The group, American Vanguard, listed on the white nationalist posters actually responded to a Diamondback article, saying, “American Vanguard has always been active in raising awareness and advocating for Nationalism on campus, which is typically the domain of our Jewish enemies.”
This is enlightening because American Vanguard has shown us what its intent is here, but it is also incredibly frightening. Our society has been on a path of rebuilding and improving in terms of mending bridges between the historically oppressed and the historically privileged. We cannot go back and allow these hate groups to take control and have a larger voice than those who wish to improve our society with messages of unity and love.
So what is the SGA’s responsibility in terms of combating these hateful voices that are starting to sprout up once again? Well, for one, the SGA needs to show that they care about the Jewish community’s concerns. It should make an actual outreach, attend events and encourage students to get involved in the government themselves. The SGA routinely holds meetings in Stamp to discuss the issues facing the student body and campus as a whole, and it should encourage students and faculty to come to these meetings so they can express their concerns. One of the best ways we can solve a problem is if we have productive discussion about it.
Views have been more polarized than ever as of late, groups of people have clashed in protests and hate crimes are up. Many groups feel threatened by the rhetoric coming President Donald Trump, as well as from Press Secretary Sean Spicer. This contention can spread to citizens and it poses a threat to the security of the Jewish community.
The SGA needs to make it a primary mission to ensure that callousness does not spread to the student body. The student body cannot become complacent and believe that the hateful beliefs expressed in propaganda posted around campus have no power in their messages. This is not to say that the Jewish community and other groups targeted by this rhetoric should be fearful, but they must remain vigilant.
Expressing concerns with the SGA is one of the best ways to ensure this rhetoric has no place and power on campus, and the SGA has a responsibility to respond to those concerns through action and by raising awareness.
Sean Strader is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.