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New Instagram Page Sheds Light on Racial Climate at UT

By Re’nesia Mills

The University of Tampa prides itself on maintaining a racially inclusive campus, but a new Instagram page suggests that UT’s campus may not be as racially inclusive as hoped.

The Black Student Union (BSU) created the stand-alone Instagram page, Black Voices of UT, in November of 2020. The page allows for past and current UT students to anonymously share their encounters with racial discrimination.

Accounts of being called the n-word, told that they were not welcomed in social spaces, taking racial incidents to school officials and having nothing done, and having racial discrimination incidents being written off as no big deal are some of the experiences that have been detailed in the Instagram posts.

The creation of the new online community came about when BSU president, Taneisha Archer, and her vice president were continuously approached by students of color who openly shared their experiences.

“We started to realize a lot of students don’t like to report their situations when it comes to racial biases because it feels like we’re just complaining about things that aren’t going to change,” said Archer. “So, we created this page where people can vent.”

Followers of the page as well as those who have become aware of the existence of it have shown support and advocacy for those who have been victims of racial discrimination.

“I was glad it was started because I think as you have these conversations, it’s really hard to get people to believe it happens without real-life stories,” said Sabrina Griffith, director of student care and advocacy.

In addition to providing a safe space for students of color to talk about being racially discriminated against, there are hopes that this platform will bring about awareness within the UT community.

“In general, we just want people to realize that not only are you not alone in your experience and you’re not the only one who unfortunately has to deal with racial biases on campus or racial discrimination, but also that there needs to be a change in the climate on campus,” said Archer. “Until people recognize that this needs to change, nothing is going to happen.”

“I hope people pay attention and I hope this gives people a space to feel like they can share,” said Griffith. “I would love for students who feel like they are marginalized, they are victimized in this space to look at this page and decide to advocate for themselves.”

There are students of color that have struggled to feel like they are welcomed at UT.

Micah-Sinone Durrant, junior double major in sociology and communication, believes that Campus Safety has been one of the main reasons that she has felt out of place and racially discriminated against during her time on campus.

Durrant and her friends have had multiple encounters with campus safety where they have been stopped on campus and had to present their school IDs as proof that they were students.

“I don’t feel like I’m protected,” said Durrant. “I feel like I’m the one who’s the threat for whatever reason.

While students have expressed frustrations regarding the racial climate at UT, it is recognized that the state of the racial climate is an issue at the institutional level as well as the student level.

“I really want people to see that it’s not just a systemic thing,” said Griffith. “It’s also an individual problem. People are so much more comfortable saying inappropriate things, doing inappropriate things, and stand on values of inequity and mistreatment to others than they were when I was a student.”

“I understand the fact that UT is trying, but I hope that eventually, they’ll start to make real steps to show that they care about racial issues on their campus,” said Archer.

Individuals within the UT community are asking for some change at the university level that may help push the campus community to be more racially inclusive.

In a survey that was taken by 27 UT students, they expressed that they would like for the university to make resources more readily available to report incidents, appreciate and spread awareness to students of all races, be more outspoken about racial issues on campus, and hire more professors of color.

“I think they need to make training a requirement, not just something you go to if you’d like to,” said Archer. “You need to train people who have never encountered black, brown, or international students how to speak with them, how to work with them, and how to understand them.”

Students who fall victim to racial discrimination can also help to promote racial inclusivity on campus.

“Just like I may feel empowered and privileged to the point that I can say and do whatever I want to you, you should feel just as empowered and privileged to the point that you can require more from me and require that someone protect you,” said Griffith.

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