Report: University ‘virtual town hall’ banned white students from participating

GAINESVILLE, FL – Whites need not attend. That was the message of the Anthropology Department of the University of Florida when they sent out invitations to a town hall in November.

The Anthropology Department of the university held a segregated virtual town hall to discuss the “direction and goals” of the BIPOC Group, according to an email invitation sent out by the group. The email pointed out that the town hall was “open to non-anthro BIPOC majors and minors.”

The virtual town hall was organized by two Ph.D. students identified in the email as Jordi Rivera Prince and Isis Dwyer.

The email was addressed to BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) students and stated:

“We have some amazing graduate students in Anthropology that are holding a virtual Town Hall tomorrow, Nov 19 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss future directions and goals for a BIPOC Anthropology Group (open to non-anthro BIPOC majors and minors).”

The email was sent from the Human Sexuality and Cultural Course email account, and the organizers used their UFL email accounts for students to respond. The town hall was held on November 19, 2020, at 4:30 p.m.

The email continued:

“We kindly remind all that you respond to this space (sic) is only for those who identify as a BIPOC individual in this department.”

The department was apparently aware that white students might want to attend the virtual town hall, but did not want them to disrupt the “space”:

“While we appreciate white students may want to join to learn more about the BIPOC perspective, we ask they respect this space as a chance for BIPOC students to come together as BIPOC.”

The organizers blamed the ban on white people as the white majority on the campus:

“We cannot hide our skin color, and for this reason, we already navigate the University of Florida as BIPOC surrounded by a majority white student body and faculty body.

“We ask white students to respect that this is a space where BIPOC students can come together without the need to perform any emotional or mental labor to explain their experiences as BIPOC.” 

While segregating whites from the program, any other race was welcome. However, the organizers warned those races to be considerate of each other:

“Additionally, we acknowledge colorism exists within our own BIPOC communities and therefore we kindly ask all BIPOC students to be mindful that we will be a diverse group of BIPOC students, and it is expected we will respect differences in experiences due to colorism.”

The email concluded with the message that the virtual town hall would be welcoming to everyone but white students:

“Don’t be shy if you are interested in attending, but not an Anthropology major — they welcome all BIPOC students!”

On her Twitter account, Dwyer said:

“I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve sat in a class as the singular Black student while one of our violently racist forefathers was praised uncritically. It’s exhausting for students of color, and it’s time for an intentional change!”

Dwyer’s Twitter account has been set to private and is presently unavailable for public view.

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A UFL spokesman reacted to the virtual town hall in an email to the Young America’s Foundation:

“The University and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences administrations recently learned of an event in the Department of Anthropology that may not have been open to students of all races and colors.

“Such an event is inconsistent with the University’s policies and values that foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment. The University is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the event and will take appropriate action.”

Young America’s Foundation is a conservative movement organization. The foundation calls itself an “outreach organization dedicated to ensuring that increasing numbers of young people understand and are inspired by the ideas of individual freedom, strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values.”

Young America’s Foundation reacted to the segregated town hall:

“Reducing students to simply the color of their skin is as racist as it gets. UF is undercutting its students’ own experiences and opportunities to learn through segregating students by race. It’s time for Americans to speak out against these atrocities and speak out–it’s 2021, not the 1960’s.”

The foundation pointed to other incidents of segregation of white students by other campuses across the country. One such incident occurred at the University of Kentucky, where Resident Assistants (RAs) were divided into two training groups based on race. An email to the RAs stated:

“The session will lead us into two separate breakout sessions – one for RAs who identify as black, indigenous, persons of color, and one for Ras who identify as white.”

Students assigned to the “White Accountability Space” were provided with a document titled, “Common racist behaviors and attitudes of white people.”

The document listed what white people should identify as racist, including believing whites “have ‘earned’ what they have, rather than acknowledging the extensive white privilege and unearned advantages they receive.”

Ironically, one of the listed racist behaviors calls out what the divided sessions were doing:

“(White people) segregate themselves from people of color and rarely develop authentic relationships across race.”

In October, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) asked Attorney General William Barr to investigate the university for violations of the federal Civil Rights Act. The incident is also under review by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

UK Spokesman Jay Blanton said:

“That should not have happened, and it will not in the future. We have made clear our expectations moving forward. A community that values diversity and inclusivity is something to which we all aspire. And that means in our training having programs where everyone feels a sense of belonging, too. We fell short in meeting that expectation and value here.”

Sen. Cotton and Sen. Loeffler also asked the Attorney General to investigate other similar incidents across the country, such as at the University of California.

At the University of California Davis, RAs were separated into “affinity groups.” The group set aside for white Ras was labeled “Critical Whiteness,” and the training website stated:

“Student staff should only participate in an affinity group if they hold that identity. These groups are not for those wanting to learn about that identity or to explore curiosity in that identity.”

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Author: Scott A. Davis

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