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In response to the currently divided feeling around the nation, David Aguiar, a resident advisor at Riverview Suites, wanted to proudly display the floor’s diversity.
On Friday, Jan. 20, however, Aguiar and a team of RAs found a floor’s bulletin board designed to promote diversity vandalized with hate speech.
They had decided to “create a tea cup and call it the ‘DiversiTEA Cup’ in which residents would have the opportunity to proudly display their identities on a tea bag,” Aguiar said.
It was not long before Aguiar returned to the newly designed bulletin board and found an anti-LGBTQ+ slur word written on one of the tea bags.
After the incident, students living in Riverview received e-mails from the Residence Life staff condemning the hate speech.
“We will not tolerate acts of bias or discrimination on campus or within the residence halls. We strive to create a community that is inclusive and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status, and any other social identity,” Riverview Suites Complex Director Lindsay Ferguson wrote in an email to residents.
Some residents of the floor had not seen the vandalism but learned about it through the e-mail and reacted.
“I was definitely surprised… I didn’t think that was even in peoples’ mindsets to do,” said transfer student Cheyenne Fraites.
Some students were not surprised to hear about the incident. Joe Mellish said, “I’m not really surprised that it happened, I am ashamed that it did… People do stupid things.”
Although some students said that they had never seen overt discrimination on campus, others had seen vandalism of similar nature.
Hannah Mckenzie said, “I’m not surprised… When I lived in Fox [Hall] I saw similar, and same when I lived in Bourgeois.”
Aguiar, along with some of his residents, feel that the incident was not reflective of UMass Lowell.
“It’s a very diverse student body… everyone seems very accepting,” said student Brian Leblanc.
“I believe that the University does an excellent job in trying to embrace diversity on campus. The resources available, such as the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Student Activities, Residence Life, the Wellness Center and Student Government Association are all perfect examples… but the job is not done,” said Aguiar. “We need to continue educating ourselves more about the people we interact with every day. We need to recognize that derogatory hate speech is not acceptable… Words are harmful.”
If students come across any instances of bias or discrimination, Residence Life urges them to speak with a staff member or report the incident electronically at www.uml.edu/diversity/reporting.aspx.
Connector staff writer Nick Bramante contributed to this article.