According to the University of North Texas’ campus newspaper, UNT Daily, a university spokesperson called a student petition to name a residence hall a form of “reverse racism,” and within days she resigned.
The petition was started by a Student Government Association representative, Misaki Collins, who wants one of the new residence halls to be named after a woman or person of color.
Collins told UNT Daily that 27 of the university buildings that students most frequent are named after men with the exception of two that are named after women. Initially, her petition included 160 buildings, but was later changed to include 87 buildings that the students most often frequent. Out of 87, 27 are named after people. Collins’ petition received 489 signatures on the first day.
The university’s spokesperson, Nancy Kolsti, emailed Collins, and Collins posted a screenshot of her email on Twitter. The email states in part,
UNT buildings should be named after individuals who are deserving of such an honor — not individuals who are chosen to fill a quota system that you think the university should have because you feel that it is important ‘to promote diversity in every aspect of the student experience.’
Insisting that UNT must have a residence hall named after another woman or a ‘person of color’ when there are other deserving individuals is imposing a quota system, and, to me, that is a form of reverse racism.
In response, Collins stated,
The argument of reverse racism, is in itself racist. This dangerous narrative is unacceptable from someone who is a professional staff member that is employed to represent UNT. This is completely against the values and mission of our university.
However, an associate director of news for the university told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an email,
Honoring diversity is one of our most important values. We encourage our students to take an active role in helping to shape the university and applaud the actions of our Student Government to petition for values in which they believe. UNT also supports free expression from all of its community members — including university employees. Nancy was expressing her views as a private citizen and not speaking in her capacity as a UNT employee. Public employees generally retain the constitutional right to free speech they hold as private citizens.
Perhaps Collins might benefit from learning that names on buildings and grades are based on merit, not skin color.
As a result, although stated “for personal reason,” Kosti resigned.
According to the university’s Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity 2016-17 annual report, 53 percent of the university’s student population is female; half is “of color.”
If the petition passes, the SGA will submit a resolution to university stakeholders, including the names of students who signed the petition.
The petition also asked for suggestions of names that could be considered for the new residence hall. Some suggested the first black undergraduate student Irma E.L. Sephas. Others suggested Joe Atkins, who filed a lawsuit with the NAACP that resulted in UNT being desegregated. Others suggested UNT’s first and only female president, Gretchen M. Bataille.