During the past four years, various policies enacted and actions from the Trump-Pence administration have impacted the University of Nevada, Reno community. These policies have surrounded topics such as COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, Title IX and more.
United States President Joseph Biden, who was inaugurated on Wednesday, Jan 20, has since implemented 17 executive orders to counteract many policy moves by former president Donald Trump.
Here is a look at how those policies have affected the university during the past four years.
The COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the majority of U.S colleges and institutions, including the University of Nevada, as early as March 2020.
To date, the Washoe County Health District has reported over 40,000 cases of coronavirus, with 12,008 remaining active. There have been over 597 coronavirus related deaths.
As the pandemic became more severe, UNR and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced all courses would be moved online due to safety precautions related to COVID-19 on March 12, 2020.
Currently, the university has implemented a HyFlex model where courses with less than 34 students are taught in person. Classes with over 34 students are taught remotely.
In addition to other policies put in place, students and faculty expressed concern coming back for the Fall 2020 semester.
“Please, do not sacrifice the loved ones of those around you for the sake of convenience,” said Sierra Batrin, a student at UNR, back in August 2020. “I am expressly concerned about the health and safety of students and staff in the residence halls. While I understand that it would be nearly, if not absolutely, impossible to close residence halls during in-person instruction, the fact that students will still be sharing rooms with people they haven’t had contact with during the 2020 pandemic turns my stomach.”
Similarly to Batrin, Melissa Burnham, a professor of Human Development and Family Studies, said the decision to come back for the fall semester was “too soon.”
“It just seems too soon to be bringing students back to campus en masse, even with safety protocols in place,” Burnham said in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush back in August 2020. “I worry about the health of our students and our faculty. One of the most dangerous places to be during this pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, is a contained space for a prolonged period of time.”
As the fall semester passed, university President Brian Sandoval announced the Spring 2021 semester spring break would not take place and the semester would start a week later on Monday, Jan 25. In place of spring break, reading days were implemented.
The HyFlex model will continue in the spring semester, allowing for some in-person instruction. Additionally, COVID-19 vaccines will be administered to the campus community in their respective tier classification.
During the Trump presidency, over 400,000 individuals died due to COVID-19.
Since taking office, President Biden has issued a mask mandate on federal property to help decrease exposure.
Former university student Peter Cvjetanovic participated and became the face of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017. Cvjetanovic’s photo circulated all over social media where UNR students identified him from previous classes.
The university began receiving national attention after a decision by former university President Marc Johnson issued saying they would not expel Cvjetanovic.
During a news conference several days after the rally, Trump came under fire for his remarks about the participants. Although he said he condemned hate, he said “you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.”
Following the rally, acts of hate increased on campus. Multiple swastikas were found in the Church Fine Arts building starwell in October 2017. The stairwell was originally meant for students to express themselves artistically.
Although a report and an investigation took place, acts similar to those of 2017 kept taking place.
A swastika was carved inside Peavine Hall, a residence hall located on campus, in October 2018. The incident occured the same day a mass shooting took place at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 dead and six injured.
In addition to swastikas being carved on campus, the American Identity Movement and Identity Evropa placed flyers on campus in 2019. Flyers were placed across various buildings across campus
Students expressed concerns and demanded the university take action, and the Johnson administration classified these acts as “poisonous and corrosive”.
Over 20 acts of hate related to white supremacy have occurred on the university’s campus since 2018, according to Bias and Hate Incident reporting site.
Additionally, the David Horowitz Freedom Center classified the university as one of the top institutions to report neo-Nazi incidents.
Students at the university participated in a protest organized by Black Lives Matter in 2017 after discovering Cvjetanovic was at the rally in Charlottesville. Students at the event called for the univeirty to take more decisive actions.
After the murder of Geroge Floyd, protests erupted in cities all over the county, including in Reno on May 30, 2020, which included students, faculty and community members.
Floyd, an unarmed African American man, was killed by ex-officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25, 2020 after the officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.
President of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Dominique Hall, spoke at the event, calling for students to remain vocal.
“We are the students and leaders of tomorrow. I encourage you to use your voice on this campus and do something about [police brutality] now because it happens in Reno,” Hall said at the protest.
“As a nation, not only have we not resolved the historically deep wounds of structural racism, inequality, injustice and violence in our country, but those divisions, dramatically intensified in recent times, significantly challenge our democracy,” former President Marc Johnson said in a statement.
According to reporting by the Reynolds Sandbox in mid-October, Blue Lives Matter material was present at a university event involving UNRPD.
In response, President Sandoval issued a statement saying the presence of this material was “disheartening”.
“I understand that while the origin of this flag is to show appreciation for police officers and their service, it’s important to recognize the ways in which this symbol has been weaponized by some law enforcement and others to undermine the experiences of people of color who have faced discrimination and harassment at the hands of police,” Sandoval’s statement read.
Following the protest over the summer, Hall along with Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma, Black Student Organization, Residence Hall Association, A.B.L.E. Women and Kappa Alpha Psi formed the “It is long overdue” campaign. The campaign seeks to unify the Black community across the state of Nevada through serviceable actions.
In addition to the campaign, ASUN has developed the UNRPD Accountability Coalition.
Recipients of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals are individuals who came to the county before the age of 16, and currently protects over 800,000 individuals by providing them temporary status.
When the Trump Administration announced the end of the program in 2017, students at the university took to Carson City to voice their concerns.
Jane, a student, told The Nevada Sagebrush she was scared for her future. At the time of the story the source was given an alias to protect her identity due to her immigration status.
“I wouldn’t recognize my birth place if I were to ever go back,” she said back in 2017. “Now that 800,000 people have decided to trust the government and come out of the shadows, they have no idea what to expect.”
The same feelings of fear continued on to other DACAmented students in 2020.
Students like Dulce Medina, Maria Villasenor-Magana and Luis Moreno Arias expressed their concerns and voices as decisions on DACA were made in the Supreme Court and the 2020 election.
After the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump Administration to revoke DACA in the summer of 2020, Villasenor-Magana said she felt relieved.
“I got out of bed and went to look for my mom to tell her the news and we just both looked at each other and hugged. It was the best possible way to start my day. My immediate thoughts were my brother and I can stay,” she said in 2020.
In addition to the decision, the university and the Nevada System of Higher Education joined the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The Alliance is comprised of institutions from across the country to urge for legal protection DACAmented and undocumented students in higher education.
For Moreno Arias, the 2020 presidential election meant it was a way for the nation to change in his favor.
“There is nothing I want more than to be able to have the same opportunities as the people in this country, especially since I have spent the same amount of time in the states as them,” he said. “This election is more than a decision, it’s our livelihood.”
Despite a want for security, students have also said there is a need for the path to citizenship, a reality unavailable under a Trump Presidency.
However, Biden issued a memorandum in support of DACA on Wednesday, Jan 20.
Under the Trump Administration, Betsy DeVos was appointed as the Secretary of Education, during which she implemented policies related to Title IX.
Title IX is a policy which prohibits federally funded programs from discrimination based on sex, including protection from sexual harassment and assault.
However, DeVos issued roll backs to the guidelines in 2017. Under the rollback, universities were required to implement new ways of investigating and adjudicating allegations of sexual assault. In the ruling DeVos said the revised process would provide greater due process.
“Schools must continue to confront these horrific crimes and behaviors head-on. There will be no more sweeping them under the rug. But the process also must be fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes,” DeVos said in a statement to the U.S Department of Education.
Despite the original rollback, DeVos proposed new changes to Title IX in 2019.
Under the change, Title IX offices on college campuses are not required to investigate any student-to-student incidents reported to have taken place off-campus. Additionally, the changes made it so only Title IX officials were allowed to file reports. Previously any employee at the university was a mandated reporter.
University Director of Title IX and ADA Maria Doucettperry expressed concern for the proposed changes.
“Additionally, the proposed rules state that in cases where the complaint alleges conduct that does not amount to sexual harassment as defined in the regulations, or the alleged conduct took place outside of the institution’s program or activity, the institution ‘must dismiss that complaint,’,” Doucettperry said in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush in 2019. “This requirement seems to definitively deny a remedy notwithstanding the fact that otherwise actionable conduct that might even be defined in other governing laws, such as dating violence under Cleary, has occurred. This is concerning for the University in that this proposed rule seems to require us to ignore the needs of our community.”
Despite concerns expressed by students and faculty, the Nevada System of Higher Education voted in favor to comply with the changes on August 18, 2020.
Currently, DeVos’changes remain in place coming into the Biden administration.
As the campus community moves into the Spring 2021 semester, the nation moves into a new national presidential administration.
Andrew Mendez can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ammendez2000.