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Loyola University Maryland students of color say they feel racism on campus

A student at Loyola University of Maryland has collected classmates' stories of racism on campus and posted them to a social media account. Jaiden Gordon, a rising sophomore, said she began the video project in early June after the feeling that she could not return to the campus and feel safe.
A student at Loyola University of Maryland has collected classmates' stories of racism on campus and posted them to a social media account. Jaiden Gordon, a rising sophomore, said she began the video project in early June after the feeling that she could not return to the campus and feel safe. (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

A Loyola University Maryland student has collected stories of racism on the Baltimore campus and is asking school administrators to force cultural changes so students of color feel comfortable.

An Instagram video of the steady, but anguished voices of about 20 unnamed students describing racism they have experienced on campus has drawn tens of thousands of views in just a day after it was posted on social media.

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One woman says: “I walked in front of two white boys on the bridge. I heard one of them say to the other, ‘Oh, she’s pretty,' and the other replied, ‘Yeah, too bad she is black.‘ They giggled after that.”

In another story, a student says, “At the beginning of my second semester, one of my braids was cut from my head. I reported it, but nothing was done” because there were no cameras in the classroom.

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In a number of instances, students, whose voices are clear but whose faces aren’t shown, say they have been called a racial slur.

Jaiden Gordon, a rising sophomore, said she began the video project in early June after the feeling that she could not return to the campus and feel safe.

“I think what started a lot of this was seeing these protests and understanding that when we go back to the campus we are leaving the streets we are marching on without the support of white allies,” said Gordon. She said students of color believe the racial tension on campus is going to grow “and that is scary.”

Gordon posted a request on her personal Instagram account on June 3, asking students who had felt racism on campus to send her messages. She said she quickly received lots of messages from people on campus. Working with another student, she then pieced those messages together and put the video up on Instagram on June 18 in two locations, including the account, “dearloyolamd.” Together the two accounts have gotten nearly 30,000 views.

A university spokeswoman responded to a request for comment with a statement.

“Listening to the voices of those who have had painful experiences involving racism and exclusion at Loyola is essential. We recognize that we have a great deal of work to do to become a more welcoming, inclusive, anti-racist university, and we are grateful to the students and alumni who are coming forward to share their stories,” said Molly Robey, assistant director of communications at the university.

“Although we cannot speak about any of the specific instances shared in the video, we are listening. These stories are urging us on as we work to move forward toward much-needed constructive change,” Robey said.

Gordon said she grew up in Hawaii where she didn’t experience much racism, so she was surprised when she arrived on campus and was confronted with examples of the kind of racism she had only heard about. She said she told her parents that she wanted to leave after the first semester, but she said she has decided to stay.

“I am hoping to make a change, because I can’t run away from their racism,” Gordon said.

After the video went up she said she has received support from administrators and faculty.

Gordon said she reached out to the president of the college who sent her an email that she believes did not really address her concerns.

“It did’t hold any clarification. It didn’t hold weight,” she said.

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She would like to see a cultural shift in the institution so that students of color feel comfortable anywhere on campus. Several years ago, students asked for a room on the university campus where they can meet. The fact that they need the space at all, Gordon believes, is an acknowledgement by the university that students of color do not feel the campus is welcoming. She said some students refer to the room as “the slave quarters.”

She believes the college has been unnerved by how much attention this is getting.

“I don’t think they were prepared for a protest like Black Lives Matters to attack their school,” she said.

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