By Jesse Stone
The Resident Hall Association and Associated Students of the University of Nevada held a town hall on Monday, April 15, in Great Basin Hall to discuss anti-semitism and bias on campus and in the residence halls.
The meeting featured a presentation from Director of Hillel of Northern Nevada Atty Garfinkel-Berry.
“We’re really trying not to be reactionary,” RHA President Serena Phen said. “We’re trying to be proactive with our town halls.”
The town hall began by asking participants to create an “identity web,” an activity where participants wrote their names and a few words, which highlighted their identities. Afterward, students discussed the reasoning behind what they wrote then listened to a presentation from Garfinkel-Berry.
Garfinkel-Berry’s discussion featured tips, which can be applied to combat anti-semitism or other forms of hateful action. Garfinkel-Berry said hateful people are often in mental hurt and empathy can be a tool to reach them.
“Isolated individuals who are in pain must be treated with compassion and it’s not always easy,” Garfinkel-Berry said.
Garfinkel-Berry’s discussion emphasized the need for bystanders to identify, report and prevent hate or bias when they see it and wanted students to seek strength in numbers and clearly define the morals they share. She suggested student groups should form alliances to create unity and support for each other.
“If you recognize something, call it out,” Garfinkel-Berry said.“If you don’t act, you are complicit in everything that person does. If everybody says ‘this is the line in the sand,’ everybody sees that its the line in the sand”
The discussion outlined the difference between advocacy and activism. Garfinkel-Berry defines advocacy as supporting a group without being personally involved and activism as supporting a group through direct or indirect action.
“All of the greatest movements in history have involved coalition building,” Garfinkel-Berry said. “When you are an ally to another group, you are actually engaging at looking at those people and respecting their identity.”
Garfinkel-Berry said that ending hateful speech or bias is a fight that is never over, but students must continue to display, promote and teach acceptance.
The town hall concluded with a discussion between attendants on the ways hate or bias on-campus could be prevented.
The town hall comes after multiple incidents of anti-semitism on campus.
A swastika was found drawn on the wall of Juniper Hall on March 8. On Oct. 27, 2018, a swastika was found carved on the wall hours after the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. In October 2017, swastikas were found painted in the Church Fine Arts graffiti stairway.
Students can report bias or hate-related incidents at https://www.unr.edu/bias-reporting.
Jesse Stone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.