Administrators and students at Texas A&M University are making a huge public effort to win over Black and Latino students who were racially abused during a recent field trip to the college. According to several news reports, the school has organized a letter-writing campaign and plans to deliver up to 10,000 letters of apology to the Dallas students. CBS DFW said that fraternity and sorority members had already written more than 6,000 letters.
Texas A&M is currently in damage control after students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory, a Dallas charter school, were accosted while touring the campus last week. The students said they were approached by a female student wearing earrings with the Confederate logo. The female student asked if it would be acceptable to wear the earrings at the Dallas school. White students were also alleged to have shouted racial slurs at the charter school students and told them to “go back where you came from.” The incident was witnessed by charter school staff, who were accompanying the students, and a Texas A&M tour guide.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Texas A&M, which is located in rural central Texas, has struggled with diversity issues. In 2000, 25 percent of the student body was non white. Now that number has crept up to 40 percent. But Black students only make 3.5 percent of the student population.
Some Black students say the campus is not a welcoming environment.
“I can tell via actions, body language, and verbiage there are those on the TAMU campus who do not feel I [Blacks] should be here. There is a simmering level of discourse on this campus,” said a Black Texas A&M student during a 2014 campus survey.
However, campus administrators are pulling out all the stops to show the Dallas students that the incident did not represent Texas A&M’s values. Texas A&M President Michael K. Young, Chancellor John Sharp and student body President Joseph Benigno made a personal trip to Uplift Hampton Preparatory to hand deliver the letters.
“We wanted to tell them we were tremendously impressed with them and proud of them in terms of how they reacted and they’re precisely the kind of students we’d love to see enrolling,” Young said. “At the end of the day, racism is systemic and endemic all over American society.”
Although the incident is being investigated by police and campus administrators, the students who made the remarks have not been punished, even though they had been identified. State Sen. Royce West, a Democrat who represents Dallas, said the students need to be expelled. He said Texas A&M was striving to improve diversity, but incidents like this could “undo whatever good has been done.”
According to Young, the good thing about the incident is that it motivated the college to take a stand for what’s right.
“If we’re silent about it, that creates a culture in which it can still continue to happen,” Young said. “We had thousands and thousands of students who stood up and put their name on a piece of paper and said I won’t stand for this anymore. I will not be silent.”
The racial abuse at Texas A&M is one of several incidents that have happened at colleges across the nation such as Providence College, Harvard Law School and the University of Missouri. The incidents show that, even among the young and on supposedly-liberal college campuses, racism is still a problem.