CORAL GABLES, Fla. – University of Miami students who are members of the private school’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter and the Black Student Leadership Caucus said more needs to be done about the racist speech during a recent Republican Club meeting.
Miles Pendleton is the president of the UM NAACP chapter. He said he believes it’s important to respect different political viewpoints, but the participants of the UM Republican Club lost all civility and crossed a line that shouldn’t be crossed at UM.
“When it comes to sexism, racism, belonging, people’s identity, those aren’t politics,” Pendleton said about UM administrators' duty to protect students from hate speech that is used to bully or discriminate.
Systemic racism has been at the center of many political conversations this election season. Pendleton said a virtual UM Republican Club meeting on Monday allowed participants to hurl racist and sexist insults at Sen. Kamala D. Harris. The Democratic vice-presidential candidate is of both Jamaican and Indian descent.
Before Election Day, Pendleton said that when the Republican Club members placed signs to campaign for President Donald Trump on campus, administrators said it was imperative to respect others' political views.
Pendleton said he and other students who support former Vice President Joe Biden and Harris were tolerant. This, Pendleton said, made the behavior during the Republican Club meeting even more “hurtful” and “disheartening.”
Kai Anderson, the chairman of the Black Student Leadership Caucus, said he was very angry when he saw what appeared to be screengrabs of the Republican Club’s meeting.
“It’s not an inclusive campus at the current moment and I feel like that people just feel ostracized and left out," Anderson said. "We’re looking to administration kind of like, ‘What are you guys going to do about this?’”
Anderson and Pendleton are among the students who want UM to make it clear that language that promotes racism, sexism and homophobia is not acceptable during activities related to UM.
“It kind of goes against the school and President Frenk’s core values," Anderson said. "One of his core values is a culture of inclusion and I feel like everyone is rightfully freaking out.”
The student activists believe the Republican Club meeting participants’ behavior was both unbecoming of a UM student and a breach of student conduct. The UM Dean of Students Office is investigating the alleged communication during the UM Republican Club meeting.
“The investigation needs to find what we all know to be true: That these things were said, that disrespect was shown, and there needs to be a condemnation for what was done to a further extent of what has been done to this point," Pendleton said.
The regulation of hate speech has been at the center of legal controversies at college campuses before. Those who argue it needs to be regulated say it is akin to fighting words, which do not qualify for First Amendment protection. The Republican Club did not respond to Local 10 News' requests for comment. It remains unclear if the comments were by members or non-members of the club.