Nearly 500 people with dark blue T-shirts reading “No Hate at Hood” walked through the Frederick college campus Friday afternoon in response to racist incidents that occurred at the college this fall.
The unity walk, which was sponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and other organizations at Hood College, brought together students, faculty, alumni and others to combat hate and reunify an otherwise tight-knit community.
“Everyone was worried about what was going on ... so we decided to have a physical presence on campus and show everyone how big and strong of a community we really are ... and say no hate at Hood,” said Christian Hoch, the SGA president.
About two months ago, a freshman reported that a racial slur had been written on the dry-erase board hanging on the door of her dorm room. In addition, stickers advertising the white supremacist group Patriot Front were placed around campus.
Many students were shocked by the incidents, including Gabby Diaz, a freshman who chose Hood because of its welcoming environment.
“I was kind of in disbelief ... just because one of the reasons I came to this school was because they advertised diversity so much,” Diaz said.
Taleiah Harrell, also a freshman, agreed.
“I knew I was going to have to deal with racism as a black person, but I did not know I was going to have to deal with it just out of high school,” Harrell said. “Hood is home — that’s what they kept telling us — and then this stuff happening kind of shook me up a little bit.”
Caroline Narvaez, another first-year student, said she has found it tough to concentrate on her studies ever since the incidents occurred.
“It’s been hard because it’s the first year. So you’re trying to prepare yourself for finals, midterms and all of that. And then, to add an environment that feels so tense, it’s kind of like you don’t know how to focus anymore,” Narvaez said.
She’s glad, though, that the campus community has been working to rise above it.
“I feel like we’ve been doing a good job advocating and talking about the issues because they’re important and have to be addressed,” Narvaez said.
In addition to the unity walk, campus organizations and various classes have been holding discussions on diversity and inclusion as a response to the racist incidents, according to Hood College President Andrea Chapdelaine.
“Our No. 1 focus is always taking care of our students,” Chapdelaine said. “So, making sure students have the resources and support and really encouraging them to stand up for what’s right and be strong and don’t let haters win.”
When asked if the incidents are representative of deeper divisions present in the student body, Chapdelaine said not necessarily, as the incidents were isolated, but she is aware that the issues of the world can easily creep into the small community of Hood.
“We’re not foolish enough to think they’re not here at Hood, but ... we’ve always been very clear about our expectations about how we respect and include everybody,” Chapdelaine said.
And the walk, she feels, helped emphasize that.
“I think it’s really made the community that much stronger and closer,” Chapdelaine said.
Senior Jera Bassett said she hopes the walk shows students who may feel uneasy that supportive allies are present.
“A lot of us feel like Hood is our home and it is really unfortunate for people to feel like it’s ... not a safe place,” Bassett said. “I just really want first years and incoming students in years to feel safe and at home here.”
Chapdelaine declined to comment on the investigations of the incidents, saying that if perpetrators were identified, appropriate action would be taken per the college’s policies.