In response to the appearance of a University of Nevada, Reno student at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Associated Students of the University of Nevada released the “I am the real Nevada” campaign.
ASUN bought 5,000 shirts with the campaign slogan on them to hand out to members of the university at activities during Welcome Week. They encouraged people with the shirts to post on social media and write “I am…” statements followed by #IAmNevada.
“We purchased the shirts to make a statement that we as individuals are Nevada, not one face,” said ASUN President Noah Teixeira. “We wanted to separate the narrative of hateful speech and put it on the students on our campus that have inspiring stories.”
Members of ASUN came up with the campaign at their yearly retreat right as Charlottesville and Peter Cvjetanovic, the UNR student photographed at the protests that later turned violent, were earning the spotlight across the country. They announced their plans for these t-shirts at the special ASUN Senate meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23, where members of the community were invited to speak their thoughts and feelings about the events of Charlottesville.
Since then, ASUN has given out 4,500 shirts and has received praise not only from students but from the university administration, members of the community and student leaders from other schools across the country.
“We have been getting emails from past ASUN officer, Regent [Jason] Geddes, people in the legislature and different alumni that would like one of the shirts,” said ASUN Speaker Hannah Jackson. “People text me and comment on my Facebook saying they want to be part of the campaign.”
Teixeira gives university students credit for making the campaign successful.
“I think this is honestly something students can get behind,” said Teixeira. “The students took it and made their own thing with it.”
ASUN has ordered more t-shirts and plans to sell them for $10 each. They will be available online and in the Wolf Shop within the next week so that members of the community can buy them as well.
The proceeds from the t-shirts will go towards ASUN’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
The university has been facing backlash since Cvjetanovic was identified by the Twitter account “Yes You’re Racist” after being photographed by Getty Images, which provides photos to news organizations throughout the country.
Students have made their feelings known. Some said they were ashamed to go to UNR and others felt like they weren’t safe on campus. New students did not know what kind of school they were coming into.
“When I heard about Charlottesville and the UNR student, I will have to admit I was a little discouraged and a little taken aback that this type of thing hit so close to home,” said freshman Kaitlynn Heckman. “I feel differently now after talking to other students and faculty members about the incident and the trouble it has caused. This type of thing happens everywhere and we have to realize that just because one person or a few people have these beliefs doesn’t mean that everyone at the university has these beliefs. This university stands for diversity and innovation. We can’t let one incident change that.”
Some have criticized President Marc Johnson and the administration’s response was too placid and more should be done. Many criticized the decision to keep Cvjetanovic as a student and employee at the university. Others believe he has been the victim of the “I am the real Nevada” campaign. Cvjetanovic resigned from his position at Campus Escort before the Fall 2017 semester started.
Teixeira told The Nevada Sagebrush the administration takes longer to implement change because of the formal procedures they need to go through. He looks to the students to make the change they want.
“I think that students on this campus…need to stand up in a large group and say ‘We will not allow hate on our campus’,” said Teixeira. “When I went to the Black Lives Matter rally, there was a good amount of people there, but I would love to get the same amount of people that we had at club fair or Wolf it Down and say ‘These people are standing up to hate speech on our campus.’”
Madeline Purdue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter, @madelinepurdue.