Make the University of Miami a Safe and Welcoming Environment: Free Speech for All

Make the University of Miami a Safe and Welcoming Environment: Free Speech for All

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Sophia Shelton started this petition to Dean of Student Affairs at University of Miami and

November 3, 2020  


The Dean of Student Affairs,   

University of Miami

       While we agree with President Frenk’s message that defacement is not the way to have a civil discourse on current political issues and the presidential election, we want to bring attention of the University, and particularly to the office of Student Affairs, other instances of defacements and use of violent trolling language that has occured on campus in the past months.

The Canes football instagram is one example, in which athletes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement have been subject to derogatory and racist language. The comments reduce Black athletes to merely their athletic abilities and strip them of their humanity and their right to free speech. This can be seen on university websites such as athletic social media pages (@canesfootball instagram). The university should condemn such language as well, if we want to nurture a place of belonging, dignity, respect, and true diversity. Furthermore, the university’s choice to support these athletes by allowing them to use the Canes football instagram account as a platform for the Black Lives Matter movement directly contradicts the university’s simultaneous decision to use facial recognition software to track protesting students. This juxtaposition suggests that the university’s symbolic support of the football players’ statements that Black Lives Matter is not genuine, but performative.

Students on campus are apprehensive and even fearful of expressing their views since learning of the inappropriate use of facial recognition technology by university security. This concern is not only within our own community, but has also raised similar apprehensions nationally. The use of facial recognition technology on peaceful protestors to identify those present at the protest on September 4th, 2020, infringes on free speech. The use of this invasive software to hunt down peacefully protesting UM students directly informs students that our first amendment rights are threatened and subject to discipline.

Furthermore, the administration chose to immediately protect the student club, UM Republicans choice to place political signage on campus, but they were silent when there was a defacement of a Black Lives Matter art installation in the University Center last year. The installation was a large black hoodie that students were expected to write uplifting messages and words on in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle against police brutality. However, an unidentified student abused this privilege by writing the oppositional phrase “All Lives Matter” in a dismissive response to the Black suffering portrayed by the hoodie installation. In the last week the overwhelming amount of the UM Republicans signage on campus represented a small club in the UM community, but seemed to be taking up the most space on campus and attempting to impress their beliefs upon the student body. The egregious amount of campaign signs have made students of marginalized groups feel unsafe on campus, as shown in a video that has been publicized on TikTok. 

If the university is truly fair and concerned about fostering a culture of belonging, dialogue and freedom of expression, there must be equal representation of all political groups. The university cannot choose to condemn injustices to one group and not all. We are proud to be a part of a university that has such a diverse community and we hope that our diversity will be celebrated, not only through symbolisms but concrete and supportive actions. This is a tense, stressful time and the student body is requesting that the administration be more supportive of minority groups on campus. We are requesting a limit on the amount of political signage that student organizations are allowed to install on campus. We are requesting that the offensive comments on the Canes football instagram be either removed or condemned by the university. We are requesting an end to the use of facial tracking software to find and punish students that choose to exercise their first amendment rights. This election is unlike any other in history, and all students deserve to feel safe and respected on the University of Miami’s campus. 


Concerned Students of the University of Miami

@Canesfootball Instagram:

Tik Tok:

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