More than 500 members of the Worcester State community, including students, faculty, staff, and University leadership, participated in the Rally for Unity on Thursday, Feb. 13, showing support for those feeling marginalized and attacked by recent hate incidents on campus. For the first time in Worcester State’s history, classes were cancelled for the rally, in an effort to allow as many students and faculty as possible to attend.
“This is, in some ways, an unprecedented stance for the University. We do not take cancelling classes lightly. I certainly do not. But I think this is an appropriate step for this University given what we’ve gone through over the past couple months,” President Barry Maloney said in introducing the rally.
The rally, which started with participants marching in solidarity from the Shaughnessy Administration Building to the Wellness Center, gave voice to several members of the community who are affected by the presence of hate on campus, and allowed them to share how they and their peers feel.
“Unwanted. Alone. Scared. Judged. And hated. These are the emotions that some students here at Worcester State feel. Our peers, our classmates, and for the professors in the room, your students. This is how they feel. And if you didn’t know before, allow this to serve as a wake-up call. We have a problem,” Third World Alliance President Dejour Hollins said in his speech to the community.
The rally is only a first step in showing those affected members of the community that this campus is welcoming and inclusive, despite the hate that has been displayed. There are more people spreading love than hate, Hollins said.
Several faculty speakers said the University must come together to show the community will work against hate.
“For Worcester State to be truly committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, we must constantly and consistently create a welcoming climate for students, staff, faculty, administration, and campus visitors,” said Associate Professor Tanya Mears, Ph.D., of the History and Political Science Department. “Our work as a collective is never done.”
English Assistant Professor Hardeep Sidhu, Ph.D., said, “To the students of color, and Jewish students, at Worcester State, I see you, and I support you. You belong here. This is your school.”
Rally participants showed many students and faculty members care about a united campus climate.
“This rally isn’t just about the recent depictions of antisemitism alone; it’s about calling out and eliminating hate as a whole against all groups of people,” Hollins said.
“The recent incidents on campus have shown us that we are not immune from hate, but with a combined effort from faculty, staff, administration, and students, we can create a thriving campus culture that encourages unity,” student Maia Shalev said in her speech, given together with her sister Karen Shalev.
“We stand together in solidarity with all of you here, and acknowledge that it is our shared responsibility to stand together against hate in all its forms,” Karen Shalev said.
While the rally was a way to show that the campus community is willing to come together and support one another, many of the speakers called for action beyond simply attending the event and signing banners signifying their agreement that “Hate has no home here.”
“Hate is the product of a racist society, not its source. Let’s start with condemning hateful speech. Today, let’s go beyond pledges of unity. We need to commit ourselves to anti-racist action,” Sidhu said.
“I’m going to teach, I’m going to resist hate, and I’m going to work to build a community in which hate cannot win,” said Associate Professor Sam O’Connell, Ph.D.
President Maloney pledged to commit himself to action, in “recalibrating” the way the university operates and its policies, and challenged everyone on campus to “take a role in changing the dynamic” and “keep this university moving forward in a positive direction.”
“Now, it is time for us to take a deep look at our institution, a deep look at who Worcester State is, to make sure that we are doing the work that we need to do that’s necessary to orientate this institution to who our students are,” Maloney said.
Written by Editorial and Communications Intern Victoria Konicki
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