Magazine article Diversity Employers

Hate-Crimes on College Campuses

Magazine article Diversity Employers

Hate-Crimes on College Campuses

Article excerpt

A NATIONAL TRAGEDY

Introduction

A hate-crime is one committed by a person whose, motive is discrimination against another person or persons on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or nation al origin or whose act against a person, or persons, grows out of bigotry in race, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin. Consider the following incidents:

Professor Tony Martin of Wellesley College in Massachusetts has a device that opens and starts his car from 50 feet away to guard against an explosion from a bomb hidden in his car because he used The Secret Relationship Between African Americans and Jews in his African-American studies course. [1] "I take extra precautions that ordinarily would not be a part of a professor's lifestyle," notes Martin, who has received death-threats. Although universities portray themselves as bastion of free speech, Martin quickly discovered that by assigning a book unpopular to Jewish students and faculty at Wellesley the results could lead to isolation, threats and vitriolic editorials with national newspapers. His ordeal, known at first to a few, eventually became known to many as he opposed the intolerance for dissenting views at one of America's most "liberal" institutions.

At the University of Oregon in June of 1997, Neo-Nazi skinheads saluted and shouted racial slurs during a music festival that was given to show campus solidarity against all forms of bigotry. Though concert-goers were frightened, no one pressed charges against the skinheads? Jim Garcia of the Office of Multicultural Affairs said that Oregon planned on creating a position for an assistant dean of multi-ethnic programs who would assist people of color in reporting hate-crimes.

At San Diego State University in March 1996, Leah Bharier, then a sophomore at the University of Arizona, returned to her residence hall to find a swastika graffited on her door. [3] Bharier alerted the residence hall advisor who immediately reported the incident to the Housing and Residential Life Office. A meeting was called to increase the awareness of hate-crimes on the campus. Bharier reported that the meeting was "ineffective" and that people were simply not interested in the subject. Three days later, another Jewish student, Corry Doktor, a junior child development major, found a crossed-out Star of David on her door. Both Doktor and Bharier were given opportunities to move to another residence hall, and the university organized a campus wide "tolerance program." Though no recurring incidents happened with these two students, leaflets were circulated during February condemning African-American History Month and pro-Nazi literature was distributed in the campus library during this period.

The appearance of hate-crimes on campus is symbolic of the increase of hate-crimes across America. According to Justice Department data, in 1996 there were "more than 5,000" crimes based on race, 1,400 based on religion and 1,000 based on sexual orientation. Eighty-four percent of law enforcement agencies reported their data to the Justice Department. According to the FBI, 61% of the incidents were motivated by race, 16% by religion, 13% by sexual-orientation bias, and 10% by ethnicity/national origin. The most reported hate-crimes are those directed toward African Americans, e.g., the recent lynching of James Byrd, Jr., in Texas.

Three Theories

Three theories are usually offered for why there has been such a dramatic increase in hate-crimes during the past decade. The first is that Americans understand what hate-crimes are and are simply reporting them as such in greater numbers. Another theory similar to the first is that law enforcement agencies are simply reporting the data more frequently and that there really are no "major" increases in hate-crimes in the U.S. The Hate-Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 requires the U.S. Justice Department to obtain and publish data about hate-crimes committed across the country. …

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