Dozens of students gathered at the Bell Tower Friday afternoon to protest Temple University’s response to a slew of racist remarks on social media from current and incoming students and to voice concerns about racism on campus.
Organized by several students through social media and word-of-mouth, the protest began in a town hall format where students were encouraged to come forward and express grievances with how Temple handles racism and discrimination on campus.
The protest took place as intense protests continue across the country in response to the killings of George Floyd, a Black man in Minnesota, and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman in Kentucky, both at the hands of police. Hundreds of Temple students took part in demonstrations on campus and in Philadelphia in support of the Black Lives Matter movement last week, The Temple News reported.
Beginning in late May, numerous incidents of racist speech from Temple students surfaced on social media, including a video showing a Temple student mocking Floyd and another showing an incoming student using racial and homophobic slurs.
In response to calls to discipline them, Temple’s administration wrote it condemns racist language and reports incidents to the Dean of Students office, but must respect students’ First Amendment rights in an email Sunday evening, The Temple News reported. Students are not disciplined solely for speech unless they violate the Student Code of Conduct, the university wrote in a tweet.
Andreya Anderson and Tahjanae Nichols, both senior psychology majors, helped organize the protest directly in response to the administration’s email, they said.
One of their concerns was that Temple touts a diverse student body but doesn’t stand up enough for Black students, they added.
“[President Richard Englert] has the statistics, but he’s not caring for those statistics,” said Nichols, who is also the president of the Uzuri Dance Company student organization.
Anderson, who is the president of the Association of Black Psychologists student organization, said hate speech is words concerning her race that make her feel unsafe.
In a statement emailed to The Temple News, Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, said the university’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students will talk with every student in question and the university will review their statements in context with the Student Code of Conduct.
“The safety and well-being of the Temple community are paramount and the university can and does respond to this revolting tide of bigotry and hatred in a variety of ways,” Betzner wrote. “We will continue to strongly condemn such language and uphold our basic values.”
At the protest, students also raised concerns about how much funding the university provides to its police department, whether Temple is honoring its Black history and personal encounters with racism they have had on campus.
After students finished sharing their experiences, organizers led a short march up 12th Street to Cecil B. Moore Avenue before turning back down 13th Street and ending at the Bell Tower.
Students in attendance yelled chants like “no justice, no peace” as they marched, voicing support for the Black Lives Matter movement and demanding action from Temple. Organizers pledged further action, including possible sit-ins and petitions, once the academic year begins in the fall.
Geoffrey Milord, a 2020 mechanical engineering alumnus, said Temple needs to have a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech. He told the crowd of protestors Temple should place a greater emphasis on funding its multicultural student organizations.
“I had to come out and rally to make sure I am able to support the student body and make sure that Temple does better,” Milord said.