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The importance of disagreeing without disrespect

The University of Utah is home to a diverse student body with a myriad of different beliefs and ideas. Sometimes those beliefs and ideas come in conflict with each other. In these times we expect members of the campus community to treat each other with respect and tolerance – but that doesn’t always happen. In recent weeks the Racist & Bias Incident Response Team has been notified of two incidents in which groups of students were targeted by those with differing views.

The first incident involved the Muslim Student Association and a targeted campaign of harassment.  A group chat was bombarded with inappropriate images, videos, and messages of Islamophobia and xenophobia. In addition various members received harassing calls and threatening voicemails calling them “terrorists” and telling them to “go back to their country.” These actions were reported to the University of Utah Police Department, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, and the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team.

The second incident involved fliers with anti-Trans sentiments advertising a film watch party for a movie harmful to the Trans community. These fliers were placed by a recognized student organization and protected under the university’s free speech policy, but their content was seen as harmful and a response was deemed necessary. Resources were made available to those who were impacted by the fliers and also made aware of LGBTQIA+ events scheduled for this month.

In addition to the responses from the Racist & Bias Incident Response Team to these two incidents Vice Presidents Mary Ann Villarreal and Lori K. McDonald issued a statement encouraging members of the campus community to treat each other with dignity, respect, and compassion and urging them not to take part in forms of disagreement “embedded in hate and shame.”

We are a campus of more than 77,000 people. We aren’t always going to agree. However, when disagreeing we must treat all involved with dignity and decency. When that doesn’t occur and members of our community become targets of bias, intolerance or discrimination they are encouraged to file a report with the Racist & Bias Incident Response Team.

We are all one U.