Media Contact

Meghan Holden, ACLU of Connecticut, 860-992-7645, media@acluct.org
Abdullah Hasan, national ACLU, media@aclu.org

October 23, 2019

HARTFORD – The following is a reaction from David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, to racist incidents at the University of Connecticut flagship campus, and to the arrest of two students who yelled racist slurs:

“The University of Connecticut administration’s response to racism on the Storrs campus is wholly inadequate and incomplete. UConn administrators and government actors are hiding behind two arrests instead of taking action to stop racism on campus.

The UConn NAACP has provided administrators with a list of eight feasible steps university officials can take to enact structural changes that support Black students and all students of color on campus. These include creating a requisite First Year Experience course focused on ending racism on campus, updating the Student Code of Conduct to create specific guidelines about racism and hate speech, hiring at least 10 Black faculty and staff, protecting students who have exposed racism on campus, investigating the fraternity where a student targeted another with a racial slur and holding that fraternity accountable accordingly, requiring public apologies from that fraternity, issuing a statement condemning racist acts on campus, and that the university complete all of these tasks by the Spring 2020 semester.

Policing is an inherently white supremacist institution, and we remain skeptical of its ability to address racism and bigotry. Under existing free speech case law the students who were arrested will almost certainly not be convicted, making it imperative for the university to immediately address racism on campus, including but not limited to these recent incidents.

As a public institution, UConn bears a constitutional responsibility to ensure students of color have equal access to education, which means equal access to a learning environment where they are safe. To date, the school has not taken the steps necessary to fulfill that obligation, and until its internal disciplinary process is complete, it remains to be seen whether the school will take adequate action to hold the two arrested students accountable.”

David Cole, national legal director of the national ACLU, had the following reaction: "Although the conduct reported in this incident is reprehensible, it is not criminal. The First Amendment protects even offensive and hateful speech, so long as it does not rise to the level of incitement to violence, criminal harassment, or true threats. Nothing in the press reports indicates that the students’ speech, while morally abhorrent, meets that demanding standard. The ACLU has long supported robust constitutional protections for speech, including speech we vehemently oppose."

To access the UConn NAACP chapter’s letter to The Daily Campus, which outlines eight steps UConn could take to begin addressing racism on campus: https://dailycampus.com/stories/2019/10/21/the-university-of-connecticut-naacp-chapter-denounces-uconn-storrs-racism-amp-bigotry

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