Student harassment on the rise after election

Report tallied more than 200 incidents

In the days following the election, reports of harassment and intimidation have been on the uptick at campuses nationwide.

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 201 "incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation" as of 5 p.m the Friday following the election. The incidents took place at institutions of higher education as well as at elementary and secondary schools. The organization has not independently verified each incident.

Beginning Friday, freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) received unsolicited messages from someone called "Daddy Trump" or "Heil Trump" on the group messaging app GroupMe. The slur-filled messages included information about a "daily lynching" and photos of such killings. The messages were traced to a University of Oklahoma (OU) student who has since been suspended. Both OU and UPenn have denounced the hateful messages.

Images circulating on social media showed a whiteboard in a classroom at Elon University with the words, "Bye bye Latinos hasta la vista," two days after the election.

The New York City Police Department is investigating swastikas drawn on four dormitory doors at The New School.

Take stock of the climate on your campus

Two students from Babson College drove through the campus of nearby Wellesley College—Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's alma mater—in a pickup truck with a large Trump flag. The students parked outside a meeting space for members of the black community and spat at a black student.

Fliers depicting armed men and an American flag have rattled the community at Texas State University. "Now that our man Trump is elected," the fliers read, it is "time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage."

A Muslim woman at San Jose State University says she was grabbed by her hijab and choked.

"A lot of Muslim students are scared," says University of Tennessee student Abdalla Husain. "They're scared that Trump has empowered people who have hate and would be hostile to them."

LGBTQ students are also concerned right now, says Patrick Grzanka, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Tennessee.

"Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students are deeply concerned about Trump," he says. "After enduring months of homophobic and transphobic rhetoric during the campaign, many of us—sexual minorities and gender nonconforming individuals—are asking ourselves, 'What happens next?'"

While racism has long been a concern, the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States changed how it manifests, says Kimberly Griffin, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"Really overt, violent racism in public spaces has become socially unacceptable in the last couple decades... people could agree that it was wrong and wasn't consistent with our values," Griffin says. Now, she adds, "we have a president-elect who campaigned on ideas that made what was previously socially unacceptable racism OK by everything from talking about mass deportations and building walls to accepting endorsements from white nationalist groups."

How to create a center for diversity and inclusion

In the midst of so much tension, colleges and universities are working to address the slew of incidents, as well as reassure students that such actions will not be tolerated.

Columbia University scheduled a "post-election conversation and reflection" for students on Wednesday, while Stanford University pledged to offer "supportive resources and opportunities to gather together" following an emotionally charged election.

Following pressure from faculty, University of Northern Colorado (UNC) President Kay Norton released a video in which she told the community, "I want you to know [UNC] cares about and cares for every member of our campus community—faculty, staff, and students—and we reject the idea that behavior that isolates and stigmatizes any member of this community is acceptable to the rest of us. We are family" (Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 11/14; Dickerson/Saul, New York Times, 11/10; NY1 News, 11/13).

3 things you can do now to improve campus climate post-election


Next in Today's Briefing

Sneak peek: What to expect from next year's higher ed budgets

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague