Hate speech gets a lot of publicity nowadays. Every time there’s an incident of racist graffiti or threatening fliers on a college campus, it goes viral on social media and becomes a news event.
Oberlin College in Ohio wants to change that. So, the next time someone posts something racist on a bulletin board, the university probably won’t make a statement about it.
Why won’t they say anything?
Oberlin officials are hoping that by not publicizing isolated incidents of racism, they will discourage individuals from distributing racist materials in the future.
Going forward, the school will only alert students if there is a suspected larger pattern, or if racist or hateful materials lead to suspicions of imminent danger.
Oberlin will still investigate instances of hateful or racist materials distributed on campus or targeted toward students, it just won't necessarily make that public.
“We don’t want to participate in amplifying their voice,” Oberlin president Carmen Ambar said. “If the goal here is to be a provocateur, to manipulate, then we’re not going to give them a microphone.”
How is the new policy being received?
An editorial in the school newspaper, The Oberlin Review, raised concerns that the new policy would result in hateful acts being swept under the rug.
From the editorial:
First and foremost, we believe that marginalized students have a right to be informed about any [and] all possible statements of hate and threats made against them. The decision to not inform students of such events in absence of “an ongoing pattern or a serious threat to campus safety” not only interferes with that right, but also parallels the fact that atrocities against Jews have historically been ignored and disbelieved -- even unreported.
The editorial board also said marginalized students benefit from a unified response from school officials when they’ve been targeted, and the new policy could leave them feeling isolated.
Ambar acknowledged the students’ concerns, but said she was confident in the school’s ability to make the right decision about whether to address the entire student body when incidents arise.