University officials said Ohio State is no place for hate, and after acts of vandalism on campus that officials declared as hate crimes, a task force was formed to address the problem.
On April 5, “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray-painted on the west wall of Hale Hall, which is home to the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center.
Officials said the words refer to George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader who allegedly killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense Feb. 26 in Florida.
President E. Gordon Gee and Board of Trustees member Algenon Marbley called for the formation of the task force, which is called No Place For Hate.
Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president of Student Life, and Valerie Lee, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, head the task force.
No Place for Hate’s goal is 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,” Adams-Gaston said.
Dawn Miles, a Ph.D. candidate in history and a sit-in student advocate member of the task force, said No Place For Hate is student-oriented.
“The majority of the task force is students, while there are also staff and faculty on it,” Miles said. “But I think they found the most diverse group of students they could.
“The task force is meant to reflect the needs of the student body and what the students want, while facing the issue of diversity and inclusion on campus and identifying what areas need the most help.”
Vijay Gadepally, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said the task force will ensure the OSU community remains intolerant of hate.
“One of the important things is to be clear that we are a community that does not tolerate any amount of hatred or discrimination. I think we are a very inclusive community, and we strongly believe in that,” Gadepally said.
No Place For Hate held their first meeting Tuesday with about 25 members, including Marbley, who attended via phone, Adams-Gaston said.
“We had good conversation (at the first meeting) about the charge of this community, what our timeline needs to be, and where we are at with diversity and inclusion on campus,” Adams-Gaston said.
Miles said diversity education is an important goal of the task force.
“We need to make sure everyone is on the same page so we can understand each others’ differences as well as understand what diversity is and not allow our differences to fracture the community,” Miles said.
Gadepally outlined some other points he said he would like No Place for Hate to accomplish, including finding innovate ways to face discrimination and advertising the resources already available on campus, such as the Multicultural Center.
Adams-Gaston said it is too early to know what the next steps will be, and the group will meet again Monday. She said the task force has a very clear three-week limit before they will address Gee and the board.
Hilary Van Meter, a third-year in speech and hearing science, said she wants to see the task force bring change to OSU.
“I’d like above-and-beyond type of action,” Van Meter said. “I’d like to see them tackling the things we don’t see, things we don’t want to hear about, things we don’t want to talk about, and bring them to the surface.”
“It is important that we can impact change and stand up for what we believe in. It is important to have an open dialogue to foster change,” Miles said.
Gadepally said he is proud of the OSU Stand Your Ground movement, which was formed in tandem with the task force and has held several protests against hate crimes.
“I like the idea that we want to stand our ground and there will be no elements of discrimination or intolerance allowed on this campus,” Gadepally said. “It just reinforces the idea that our student body is one of the most tolerant and inclusive campuses on earth. The Stand Your Ground movement is a testament to that.”
Van Meter said she agrees that something needs to be done, because the recent hate crimes on campus have brought problems into the light. She said she hopes the task force is able to be effective in its action.
“I hope it will unify our school,” Van Meter said.
Miles agreed that securing unification is important for OSU.
“We should be able to be educated in a space that is not just safe, but welcoming,” Miles said. “We all belong here, we should all feel welcome every day.”