Initially positive opinions of UR’s recent anti-racism campaign have waned since its rollout, with some students saying it falls short in comparison to the University’s sexual assault awareness initiative, “It’s On Us.”

The campaign, “We’re Better Than THAT,” was created by University President Joel Seligman’s comission on race and diversity to initiate racial dialogue, and has advertised an anti-racism video contest—with a monetary prize—on their website.

Junior Anna Alden compared the two initiatives and said, “The past campaigns have had a lot of publicity, and I think this one deserves just as much. Other than one email and a poster hanging, I haven’t heard much about it. Honestly, the campaign doesn’t stand out to me at all, and the logo seems plain.”

Fellow junior Liz Beson isn’t a big fan of the slogan, either. “If we’re actually better than that, we wouldn’t need a slogan telling us that,” she said. “It should have been something active about learning and racism.”

Students’ Association (SA) President Grant Dever and Associate Dean of Diversity of Arts Beth Olivares—both members of the commission, which adopted the slogan unanimously—acknowledged that the campaign’s slogan was met with mixed reviews while the project was in its early stages.

“One of the slogans that everyone reacted to was ‘Racism Sucks,’” laughed Olivares, “but it’s a little negative, a little profane, and it’s obvious.”

The committee ultimately decided on a slogan that was “short, to the point, but you don’t immediately know what it means, and it draws on the University’s principle of Meliora,” said Olivares.

Dever recognized that, at face value, the campaign’s slogan has its problems.

“I know that the campaign is going to be about racism when I see it because I’m involved in the process,” he said. “The slogan ‘Just Do It’ doesn’t have anything to do with sports, but obtains meaning from other things that come from it.”

Following the protests by minority students last fall, UR President Joel Seligman, with the help of Olivares and Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Minority Affairs Norman Burnett formed the committee, which was charged with mitigating racism on campus.

In December 2015, Olivares and Burnett met with nearly 70 undergraduates of the College, along with students of the Eastman School of Music and staff members, to further develop the “We’re Better Than That” campaign.

The committee expanded to include staff members, students from the Douglass Leadership House, Black Students Union, Minority Students Advisory Board (MSAB), Spanish and Latino Students Association, and other signatories of the original list of demands issued to President Seligman last fall.

“The goal of this campaign is for it to be ubiquitous,” Olivares said. “Above all, the students wanted to make sure the campaign touches everyone on campus from the department chair, to food service workers, and students so that everyone can understand that there is no ‘they’ but only ‘we’ at the University of Rochester.”

Dever shared a similar opinion about the campaign’s intentions.

“A lot of people aren’t aware of how their actions affect others because they fail to internalize them for some reason,” he said.

He believes that part of being a student at UR is to enjoy the school’s diversity. He remains optimistic regarding the campaign’s success.

Itzel Figueroa, a representative of MSAB and a member of the Anti-racism Committee, also remains optimistic. “I hope this campaign won’t just be about free T-shirts and water bottles, but it’s good that the school is taking a step in the right direction.”

When asked what her hopes for the future of diversity on campus were, she replied that she’d be satisfied when she’s “finally taught by someone who looks like me.”

Tagged: Race


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