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Race, Religion & Social Justice

University of Utah Students demand urgency from school officials in response to racist incidents on campus

 Hanna Msiska protest
Ivana Martinez
Hanna Msiska said school administrators need to be proactive about responding to racist incidents on campus.

Dozens of University of Utah students and community advocates gathered Friday afternoon calling for action from school administrators following racist incidents on campus. The protest was hosted by the Utah chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

In mid-December, an Instagram post circulated about two events that occurred in resident halls.

First, one student found a paper towel with a brown substance — believed to be feces — on their door handle. Then, a resident assistant reported overhearing students in an elevator saying that there were people dressed in “white KKK-like attire.”

University administration released a response shortly after the post saying they don’t condone racism on campus and would investigate the events.

Last month the student government also called on the university administration to take action and begin conversations with the Black Student Union.

Ermiya Fanaeian, a university student and organizer for the event, said they don’t want more recommendations or audits. Instead, they want to see real consequences for the perpetrators.

“We are asking for them to begin creating more urgency when a student comes to them and tells them, ‘Look, this is what I've experienced,’” Fanaeian said. “We need them to act upon that immediately.”

University of Utah anti-racism event
Ivana Martinez
Sai Parsawar, Joy Kavapalu and Zahra Saifee, listen to students speak about their experiences on campus at an event on Jan. 7, 2022.

Hanna Msiska, a third-year student, said some of the university-advertised services, like counseling, aren't accessible to them. She said it can take weeks to see a counselor.

“The fact that students of color can't get therapists or psychiatrists, that kind of support, like that is indicative of something,” Msiska said. “Or the fact that students of color, like myself, report racism in their colleges, you kind of just get like an ‘Oh I'm sorry’ at best.’”

She said supporting Black students doesn’t revolve around talk but real action.

“It is giving us scholarships. It is covering our tuition, it is covering our education, it's being there when a crisis has happened,” she said. “And that has not happened.”

Msiska said the administration needs to be proactive in investigating these incidents. Now though, she feels it often falls on students to make sure these events get noticed.

A university representative said they are still investigating, and don’t condone racism on campus.

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