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College of Idaho creates new group to combat hate speech

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 13, 2020

Associated Press

Associated Press

NAMPA, Idaho – The College of Idaho’s administration has created an organization to address the three reported acts of hate speech or bigotry that have been associated with the school in the last year.

The liberal arts college established the Representation, Inclusion and Equity Alliance to address ways the college can improve its response to bigotry. The group is made up of students, staff, faculty, administrators and alumni.

The college is also looking to diversify its faculty and administration, the Idaho Press reported Thursday.

Earlier this year, homophobic language was spray-painted on Pride flags and sidewalks on campus after the school held its first student-led Pride March. In October, a school employee posted photos on social media of her son dressed in blackface as part of his Halloween costume.

Over the summer, photos circulated online of a rock that student-athlete Kaylee Jones had spray painted in her hometown with “#FBLM,” meaning “(Expletive) Black Lives Matter,” along with messages supporting outgoing President Donald Trump.

“Although my words came across misleading and hateful, I have nothing against Black lives, it was more to do with the violence and crimes being committed through parts of the movement, but I expressed that in a very misleading and inappropriate way,” Jones said in her apology letter.

Some students and alumni called for her expulsion, arguing that her presence would make Black students feel unwelcome on campus. But Jones was not expelled.

The student government’s vice president of inclusive excellence, Christian Garcia, said officials met with him and other student leaders but did not speak directly to any Black students before allowing Jones back onto campus. He said the first time college officials met with Black students was to let them know that Jones was living on campus and had signed a confidentiality agreement with the school regarding the incident.

Backlash over the College of Idaho’s response resulted in the creation of an alumni group on social media, which member Sage Czelder said has gathered about 200 members. The group intends to hold college officials accountable for how they respond to hate speech or other discriminatory actions.

Garcia said one of the Representation, Inclusion and Equity Alliance’s goals is to improve the avenues through which students can report incidents of hate speech or bigotry. Students can report occurrences online or by contacting student advocates or employees, including counselors or on-campus officers.

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