Anti-racism effort widens scope

Members of the Racial Justice Coalition for Change demonstrate in front of Stapleton Library at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Sept. 2, 2016. Photos by Logan Hullinger.

Members of the Racial Justice Coalition for Change demonstrate in front of Stapleton Library at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Sept. 2, 2016. Photos by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s ongoing organized demonstration against racism this year has expanded its mission by protesting Islamophobia this fall.

A half dozen or more members of Racial Justice Coalition for Change stood in front of Staleton Library during the first week of the new academic year. They held signs bearing such messages as “End Racism and Islamophobia.”

Melanie D. Hildebrandt, associate professor of sociology at IUP and a founder of RJCC, said the additional concern fits the group’s original model.

“We want to keep the umbrella as broad as possible,” Hildebrandt said during an interview in her McElhaney Hall office on Thursday. “Islamophobia is a form of discrimination. And we want to let people know that we won’t tolerate it.”

Hildebrandt cited remarks by Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump that have been directed against Muslims during his 2016 campaign.

Melanie D. Hildebrandt, associate professor of sociology at IUP, in her McElhaney Hall office, Sept. 8, 2016.

Melanie D. Hildebrandt, associate professor of sociology at IUP, in her McElhaney Hall office, Sept. 8, 2016.

“It’s scary that someone with such influence can spread such hatred,” Hildebrandt said. “This isn’t the kind of message that should be sent to minorities. We need them to feel accepted.”

Deanne L. Snavely, dean of IUP’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, joined the demonstrations throughout syllabus week.

“We want to make a stand here on IUP’s campus,” Snavely said on Sept. 2. “We need to make sure students know that this campus is inclusive, to better society.”

RJCC is planning to take its message indoors too, Hildebrandt said. It is preparing to convene groups of students and professors to teach inclusion.

“We received a mini-grant to have teaching circles for handling race in the classroom,” Hildebrandt said. “We also would like to get approval for weekend workshops, which would aim to educate IUP faculty.”

Detail of Hildebrandt's McElhaney Hall office entrance, Sept. 8.

Detail of Hildebrandt’s McElhaney Hall office entrance, Sept. 8.

Hildebrandt cited the 2015 Campus Climate Study, a survey of diversity attitudes that was launched in 2015 by IUP’s Office of Social Equity.

“The study showed that students in general aren’t comfortable with addressing racial matters with professors,” Hildebrandt said.

For the fall 2016 semester RJCC has scheduled monthly protests in front of the library, Hildebrandt said.

Logan Hullinger, a junior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from Clarion, is a staff reporter for The HawkEye. He can be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu.

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