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University of Maryland faces scrutiny for creating group as 'safe space for White students' to discuss race

University of Maryland faces scrutiny for creating group as 'safe space for White students' to discuss race

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by Daniel Miller, ABC7

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (ABC7) — A group at the University of Maryland Counseling Center is under scrutiny for creating a "safe space for White students" to discuss the topic of race.

The group was initially called "White Awake" but was later changed to the "Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group."

Some of the content from the flyer states"Do you want to improve your ability to relate to and connect with people different from yourself?"

"Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during, or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?"

On Friday, the UMD Division of Student Affairs Counseling Center released a statement regarding the purpose of the group:

"Although it is our intent to promote anti-racism, we acknowledge that there are members of our community that may have felt harmed by the naming of this group."

"Our Counseling Center embraces multiculturalism as one of our key and most important values, as evidenced by its diverse staff, services and programs."

"The purpose of this effort is to promote anti-racism and becoming a better and more informed ally. Our Counseling Center acknowledges that we did not choose the right words in raising awareness about this research-based initiative, and how this group has been perceived is counter to the values of inclusiveness and diversity that we embody. Therefore, we are renaming the group to better reflect our intention and values."

"We are dedicated to providing all members of our community the opportunity to be more culturally competent, so we all play a role in creating a more inclusive environment."

Some people in opposition of the group shared their thoughts on Twitter.

Fit Gawd Jeanist posted "You can't possibly understand and have a real conversation about race if it's only White people talking to each other. If you can only understand a message coming from a White person that's a problem in itself."

@LoveConweezy27 wrote "I am ashamed over the execution of white awake nor do I fully understand its clause. 'How they can fit into a diverse world'? Why do they need to attend therapy sessions on how to be a decent human being in society? Why do they need to have these sessions to learn how to coexist?"

The University of Maryland has dealt with several race-related incidents on its campus over the past year.

RELATED: UMD STUDENT CHARGED WITH HATE CRIME IN MURDER OF BOWIE STATE STUDENT

In May 2017, UMD student Sean Urbanski was charged with a hate crime in the murder of a Bowie State student Richard Collins.

Urbanski was indicted in July 2017 on one count of murder. At the time Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said there wasn’t enough evidence for hate crime charges. But an additional investigation into digital, online evidence led to an indictment.

Collins, who was black, was a Bowie University ROTC student already commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the US Army. He lived in an apartment in College Park and was heading home at about 3:05 a.m. after a night out when it was alleged Urbanski approached, made a comment, and then without warning stabbed Collins once in the chest.

Investigators and students quickly found that Urbanski, who is white, was a member of a racist humor Facebook group and a hate crime investigation was launched.

In the aftermath of Collins' murder, Delegate Angela Angel spoke to UMD students and alumni about hate crime legislation she wanted to introduce in Jan. 2018.

UMD also announced the launch of a hate-bias incident response protocol in Nov 2017.

Under the new policy, members of the UMD community can report hate-biased incidents to UMD Police or to the school's Office of Civil Rights & Sexual Misconduct (OCRSM).

RELATED: LAWMAKER DRAFTS BILL TO ENACT CHANGE AT UMD AFTER STUDENT CHARGED WITH HATE CRIME, MURDER

In April 2017, a noose was found inside a fraternity house near the university. UMD President Wallace Loh released a statement calling the incident "despicable."

Several months later in October 2017, a 52-year-old man faced charges after a swastika was found spray-painted on a trash cart at a dormitory.

Ronald Alford Sr. of Hyattsville, was issued a criminal summons for one count of malicious destruction of property and one count related to disturbing the operations of a school. He was denied access to campus.

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