University of Maryland to spend $3.8 million on diversity initiatives

The University of Maryland, College Park has set aside $3.8 million for new diversity measures following the killing of a black Bowie State University student by a white UM student on campus last May, Maryland President Wallace Loh said this week.

The university has hired a firm to take campus “climate surveys” every two years, created an institute for diversity inclusiveness in higher education, and established a “rapid-response team” to respond to incidents of racial bias, Loh told The Baltimore Sun editorial board on Tuesday.

“We have significantly revamped our education and training processes,” he said.

Army 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III, 23, had been visiting friends at College Park in May when Maryland student Sean Urbanski approached them outside.

Charging documents said Urbanski, who seemed incoherent and intoxicated, told the group to "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you,” then stabbed Collins in the chest when he refused, according to the documents.

Collins, just days away from graduation, died.

Urbanski was charged with first- and second-degree murder, and later indicted on a hate-crime charge, after investigators discovered he belonged to a Facebook group called Alt Reich: Nation.

Urbanski’s trial, which had been set to begin this month, has been delayed. A status hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13, and a motions hearing is set for March 17, according to online court records.

In addition to other measures, Loh has authorized a $200,000 program to train leaders of the university’s 800 student groups on intercultural competency, and build dialogues between the groups.

“It’s training the leaders of the student groups to deal with incidents of hate and bias,” he said.

Loh said the university has not seen a significant drop in the number of applications, or the diversity of applicants, following the incident.

The admissions department received seven or eight letters from African American applicants who’d been admitted, who declined admission, specifically citing safety.

Roger L. Worthington, the university’s vice president for diversity and inclusion — a role Loh elevated to the president’s cabinet in the wake of the incident — is putting together a national conference scheduled for the end of the month, featuring scholars from around the country to discuss how universities should be responding, Loh said.

“Not just in the abstract, but what are you doing? What are best practices? What can we learn from one another?” Loh said. “We want to be in a leadership role.”

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