Campus reacts to anonymous comments at black immigrant panel

Rebecca Nissen
Audience members listen at last week’s Black and Immigrant panel event. Anonymous questions submitted by members of this audience have sparked concerns about racism and white supremacist attitudes on BYU campus. (Rebecca Nissen)

Counseling and Psychological Services will hold a “safe space” event on Feb. 14 for students negatively impacted by anonymous comments made at a black immigrant panel event last Thursday.

“Come connect with peers and faculty and find healing,” the Instagram announcement says. The event will be from 4-6 p.m. in room 3211 of the Wilkinson Student Center.

The black immigrant panel was held in honor of Black History Month. It was sponsored by the David M. Kennedy Center’s Africana Studies program.

“Audience members were given the opportunity to submit questions through an online audience interaction app which many, but not all audience members could see,” said Leslie Hadfield, director of the Africana Studies program. “Some audience members started posting questions clearly meant to antagonize and demean black people.”

Hadfield said she believes these submissions were coming from at least two people in the audience.

Grace Soelberg, a history major from Kaysville, Utah, posted screenshots of the anonymous submissions on Twitter later that night.

News of the comments spread quickly, even as far as the Washington Post.

BYU administration denounced the behavior on its Twitter account the next morning.

Kirstie Weyland, a sociology graduate student from Ethiopia, was a panelist in last week’s discussion. She expressed her frustration with the situation, as well of that of her black peers.

“Nothing has been resolved with this issue and BYU has failed to do anything aside from tweeting that they don’t endorse racism,” Weyland said. “We are angry and hurt and not healing from constant racial profiling.”

Facebook “Doog Hassell Pool” created a Facebook album called BYU BSU Quotes compiling BYU students’ reactions to the incident.

Quotes shared on BYU BSU Quotes Facebook page. (BYU Black Student Union)

Israel Selway, art major and Black Student Union president, said many people of color at the school feel too exhausted to comment on the situation right now.

“We need time to heal, to regroup, to be together as a community,” Selway said.

BYU encouraged students who witness racism or white supremacy on campus to report the behavior to the Dean of Students Office, or call the University Police if in immediate danger.

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