The events that happened at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017 have initiated hate crimes around the United States, shocking and disappointing many Americans.
“I was saddened and disturbed by what I read and watched on the news. What happened in Charlottesville brought back memories from my teenage years in Lebanon and reminded me of the thin veneer of our civilization,” said Chaouki Abdallah, President of the University of New Mexico.
Members of the Associated Students of UNM were also shaken by these events.
“ASUNM condemns all ideas and acts of racism, terror, hate and violence and urges UNM students to practice respect for their fellow Lobos,” ASUNM Director of Communication Noah Michelsohn said.
There are hate groups everywhere — UNM is no exception — no matter how hard staff tries to protect students, Abdallah said
“UNM is one of the most diverse universities in the country, and I believe those who subscribe to hate groups are few in our midst,” he said.
ASUNM works hard to ensure that students feel safe on campus, Michelsohn said, “ASUNM values the inclusive campus environment that UNM fosters.”
“UNM has done a great job growing the Division of Equity and Inclusion — that is a resource for the campus and all of its students to become further educated on how to foster an inclusive campus environment,” he said.
Abdallah wants students to know that “we strive to make UNM a safe and inclusive campus, while keeping it open for diverse opinions. The Charlottesville events sounded the alarm for what happens when hateful speech crosses into criminal acts.”
He encourages students to read about the history of this country in order to potentially “appreciate the rights and responsibilities we have to keep our disagreements civil and respectful.”
Abdallah hopes discrimination never becomes an issue at UNM, but if it does, there are already policies and legal means to deal with the problems.
“We will follow the law and also make sure safety is the utmost priority,” he said. “As I have stated before, I believe the First Amendment and academic freedom are some of our most cherished values and rights, but at the same time, I will not condone violent acts.”
Many of the speakers that come to UNM are invited by student groups, Abdallah said.
“By shunning groups and speakers that promote violent agendas, we can protect our campus, while still listening to speakers with differing opinions who can advance our dialogue,” he said.
In order to protect students, Abdallah urges students and the campus community to speak their minds and exercise their rights in a civil manner.
“Should safety become a concern, we will rely on the UNM Police Department, one of the finest campus police departments, led by the very experienced Chief McCabe,” he said.
“At the University level, administration has done an amazing job making sure that campus is a safe place for a thoughtful exchange of ideas,” Michelsohn said.
He said ASUNM can also “be a resource to further the discussion about inclusion on campus. The doors are always open to any student.”
“Our police continue to monitor social media, events and actions around the nation and on our campus,” Abdallah said. The University will implement and adjust safety measures as needed.
“I hope we learned to be cautious, not to cross the line from free speech to physical harm. Clearly, we need more peaceful civil discourse in the country and at UNM,” he said.
Kelly Urvanejo is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter