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'Dear Miami University' highlights discrimination, hate on campus

'It’s nothing new for us'
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Posted at 4:16 PM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 22:04:51-04

OXFORD, Ohio — Miami University students are speaking out in a series of anonymous posts through a new Instagram page about racism and harassment on campus.

Click on the “Dear Miami University” Instagram page and you’ll see nearly 200 posts about discrimination on campus. Students and even alumni write about being called racial slurs, sexually harassed and even being singled out in the classroom for the way they talk.

The page, which has amassed nearly 6,000 followers in less than two weeks, is bringing to light a broad range of cases of mistreatment based on race, gender, sexuality and other minority groups.

Athena Williams is a senior majoring in international studies and comparative religion. She is also the president of the Black Student Action Association on campus. Williams said stories of discrimination have been known long before “Dear Miami University.”

“I’ve heard from close friends who are international African students — they’ve been asked if they swam to the United States,” Williams said. “It’s unfortunate but a lot of Black students and students of color on campus have one story or another about encountering racism.”

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Athena Williams is a senior majoring in international studies and comparative religion. She is also the president of the Black Student Action Association on campus.

Williams is not immune either.

“You’ll feel like you’re being followed. You’ll be uptown at a bar or eating out and you’ll hear a student giggling and throwing out the N-word in their conversations. I’m just one of many students who have experienced these acts. It’s nothing new for us,” Williams said.

In one post on “Dear Miami University,” a student writes about an economics professor asking an Asian classmate how different things were in China. That classmate responded, “I don’t know. I’m from Chicago.” The professor assumed he was an international student.

Another post reads: “The N-word was a nightly battle cry, drunkenly and excessively used by white students the closer you got to High Street.”

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Image via Dear Miami University Instagram

Williams said Miami University has a reputation for behavior like this around the state.

“It’s something that students of color are often warned about before they come,” Williams said.Often, the responses we see (from the school) are pretty lackluster. We’ll get an email apologizing for whatever racist incident has happened. At most, the student gets a short diversity training course and that’s about it.”

Jayne Brownell, vice president for student life, said the behavior described is not unique to Miami.

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Jayne Brownell, vice president for student life at Miami University.

“We are unfortunately similar to what other schools are finding as well. These kinds of accounts exist at a lot of different colleges,” Brownell said. “This Instagram series is so important because then they’re not one-off stories. Then we can look to see, OK, we have work to do in the residence halls or we have work to do on an athletic team. Then we can do more targeted outreach.”

We reached out to the creator of "Dear Miami University" but did not hear back before deadline. The first post on the "Dear Miami University" Instagram page suggests students have been ignored.

"Enough is enough Miami University.

We are tired of empty promises and fluff. We are tired of the lack of action. We are tired of being silenced and disregarded. We are just tired and now we are angry. These are the stories that you’ve failed to listen to." -@dearmiamiu

In a recent Instagram story, the page posted a slide that said students are "taking extra steps to make these posts seen by Miami University" before including photos of stories of discrimination made on campus in sidewalk chalk.

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This screenshot from the "Dear Miami University" Instagram page shows complaints of discrimination at the University drawn on a campus sidewalk.
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This screenshot from the "Dear Miami University" Instagram page shows complaints of discrimination at the University drawn on a campus sidewalk.

Brownell said there is a task force right now working on solutions to help staff and students learn about diversity and equity.

“The task force that exists right now is short term — it is a summer task force. They are looking for quick action items as well as longer projects that we can put in place,” Brownell said.

The school has a bias form students can fill out online, but it’s not widely used. Brownell said she’d like more students to utilize it. All incoming students had to take a course in inclusion training last year and they will have it again this year.