University Park, IL,
16:31 PM

University Community Examines Rise of Hate Speech

Members of the Governors State community gathered on Thursday, November 2 in Engbretson Hall to create an open dialogue on "freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the impact of Confederate symbols, and the resurgence of hate" in America. Sponsored by the Campus Inclusion Team (CIT)—a committee of students, faculty, and staff from across the university devoted to upholding GSU's commitment to diversity—the Master of Public Administration at GSU, and Pi Alpha Alpha Global Honor Society, the event featured a panel of experts from higher ed with a keynote address from Gia Orr, a state and local advocate for human rights with a background and expertise in education.

Faculty members were joined by community members and peers from sister institutions in a panel discussion that ranged from understanding post-Civil War southern sentiment to practical actions people can take in their daily lives to combat the increasing presence and visibility of hate groups, such as Unite the Right—the far-right political group that incited the violence in Charlottesville, VA in August that led to the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protestor who was killed when a vehicle plowed through the crowd. A moment of silence was held at Thursday's event for Heyer.

When asked if he thought the southern states had ever "gotten over" the loss of the Civil War, Dr. David Golland, professor of U.S. history in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), gave a simple no. The cut and dry response elicited a small ripple of laughter—needed levity in a room that came together to address the alarming rise of the acceptance and normalization of racism in contemporary America.

GSU President Elaine P. Maimon was in attendance and addressed the room, highlighting the value and necessity of engaging full-campus conversations on such crucial matters as justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion. 

Event organizer Dr. Mary Bruce, Full Professor of Public Administration in CAS, noted that Dr. Maimon's presence and comments "promoted even more participation from the panelists, as well as the audience."

Although the ideals of inclusion and equality are not new to GSU (the university's triad seal, rendered in black and white, was designed in part as a symbol of racial harmony), current social and political trends have caused GSU to reaffirm its commitment to be an active force in the fight for social justice and equality.

On Friday, November 10, the Fall All-Campus Symposium will take place in the Center for Performing Arts. The symposium will in some ways continue and build on some of the themes of Thursday's panel discussion while introducing some new topics, including ways to integrate student veterans on campus. The event is an opportunity for the institution to come together and continue reflecting on the themes of inclusion and equity.