By Jessica Mullins/Around&About editor
In a world filled with a variety of races, cultures and personalities, it is obvious that all individuals are different. Differences are often viewed as something to be appreciated, however, many are persecuted and discriminated against for their differences from others. One group of Eastern students is taking a stand for those who have been offended by their peers.
Students Speaking Out Against Hate, (S.P.OUT) is a newly formed student organization whose goals are to “protect, educate and advocate” the public about hate crimes.
According to www.tolerance.org, a hate crime can be classified as “a criminal act in which a victim is selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against that victim’s unchangeable characteristics.”
The Web site also states that, “every year, more than half a million college studetns are targets of bias-driven slurs and physical assaults.” More so, “every day, at least one hate crime occurs on a college campus.”
After reading about a hate crime that occurred on the campus of Eastern, freshman Michael Cantrell decided that there needed to be a voice for students who have been victims and witnesses to such crimes, especially those not reported.
More so, he wanted to raise awareness to all students about the seriousness of hate crimes.
S.P.OUT plans to focus on their three goals of protecting, educating and advocating hate on campus and within Richmond. They have many activities planned to achieve each goal.
Within their goal of protection, their Justice Squad Student Investigation Team, will “try their best when a hate crime is reported to see what they can do (to help)” according to Cantrell.
However, Marta Miranda, assistant professor of social work, says that “what happens specifically on college campuses is that hate crimes are usually not reported.”
According to the division of public safety’s web site, no hate crimes were reported for the year of 2002, which are the most current statistics.
However, Miranda notes that often hate crimes are reported as other incidents and emphasizes the importance of “reporting hate crimes as hate crimes, not as other incidents, so that they’ll actually be statistics about that.
“In order to educate individuals about hate crimes and how to report them, S.P.OUT will implement several different programs, such as book groups, movie groups, diversity training sessions and what Cantrell calls “hate talks.”
“Hate talks” will be conducted in local elementary and middle schools, where S.P.OUT members will invite parents and their children to come discuss the influences and affects of hate .
“We consider this very important, considerately because hate is learned at a very young age,” Cantrell said.
S.P.OUT will also be working with the Office of Multicultural student affairs to do such dialogues as the “hate talks,” on campus.
As far as the advocacy aspect of S.P.OUT, members will be part of the safe zone services program, which involves notifying others in residence halls that they are a part of the organization and that individuals can come talk to members about potential hate crimes or discrimination.
S.P.OUT will also help advocate for hate crimes by supporting their philanthropy, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, based on a hate crime which killed a college student in Wyoming.
Although this is the first year that S.P.OUT has been in place at Eastern, it is already a growing organization.
“When we first started, we didn’t have anybody,” Cantrell said.
However, there are now 41 members in S.P.OUT and they are looking for more individuals to get involved.
Miranda thinks that S.P.OUT is a great way to reach out to the campus about hate crime.
“As we grow as a university and have more diverse students, I think we’re going to have more of a need for people to become comfortable with differences,” Miranda said.
S.P.OUT currently meets at least once weekly and often more times for certain events and service projects. Their meetings are open to all university students, faculty, staff and parents.
For more information on how to become involved in S.P.OUT, contact the president Michael Cantrell at 622-5209, or email him at email@example.com.
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