Members of the Associated Students of Madison met Wednesday afternoon to develop measures to assist Arab-American students who have been victims of harassment after last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks.
“Harassment aimed towards Arab Americans is one of our main concerns after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.,” ASM Diversity Committee Co-Chair Jenny Chen said. “We have heard from other students of many more incidents occurring against Arab Americans, but no one is actually calling and reporting anything.”
Chen said she heard from other students about two Arab-American students recently not allowed to ride a Madison Metro bus.
Chen cited this as an example of students not reporting an incident to the administration.
According to Jennifer Epps, ASM Diversity Committee co-chair, the number of harassment and violent attacks that have been reported to the UW administration has remained low.
“Reports of harassment have remained low because of the climate of our administration,” Epps said. “Students don’t see the administration as people they can speak to about these attacks.”
Epps said students need other options.
“We want to be able to inform students about other resources to confide in besides the administration, and give them more options on where to go for help,” Epps said.
Chen said the administration’s low visibility is another reason students do not report incidents of harassment.
“[ASM] sees and talks to students every day,” Chen said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, ASM discussed implementing a program similar to Speak Out, a resource allowing students to report incidents of harassment to the administration. ASM discussed forming a similar program, but having it organized by students instead of UW administrators.
Chen said they are also discussing the implementation of a crisis line.
“It is really hard, however, to get the funding and volunteers to wait by the phones,” Chen said.
These plans are not only aimed towards Arab Americans, but to other students who may be targets for harassment as well. Philip Ejercito, ASM campus relations chair, said incidents of verbal and physical harassment have been occurring even before last Tuesday’s events.
“A week before classes started two students were attacked on Gilman Street, and the administration was not able to help because the attack did not happen on university grounds,” Chen said.
Ald. Todd Jarrell, District 5, also met with the members of ASM to discuss plans to address harassment occurring off-campus as well as on campus.
Ejercito said the administration sees the campus area as only including university land, such as classrooms and dorms.
“But ASM wants to focus on the campus area all the way from downtown to Fordham Avenue, which is basically where most students live.”
Chen said she hopes to work with Jarrell and the Public Safety Review Board to focus on preventing further attacks associated with race.
“Racism is a huge problem and will continue to be a problem,” Jarrell said.
“Basically, ASM and I are brainstorming ways to give students who have been harassed on campus and in the community more valuable resources.”