November 16, 1998
Volume 51, No. 12
New Unity Task Force fights intolerance at Emory
Unity Week, the annual celebration of Emory's diverse community, runs this week through Friday, Nov. 21. It will be a time for everyone to revel and reflect in the disparate cultures that thrive on campus, but this year's event arrives in especially appropriate circumstances as the University struggles to deal with precisely the kind of prejudice Unity Week is supposed to purge.
During the past few months a series of incidents that can legitimately be described as hate crimes have occurred on campus, ranging from simple graffiti spray-painted on bathroom walls, to vandalization of cars with ethnic slurs, to targeted threats of individual students with handwritten notes. These "acts of intolerance" even prompted a personal response from President Bill Chace which appeared in the Nov. 9 Emory Report and was posted on the University's internal web site.
"Let me forcibly remind every citizen of the Emory community of the principles for which we stand: an enlightened respect for others, a dedication to nonviolence and a repudiation of hate," Chace said. "Those principles will be upheld. This community will not tolerate the intolerant."
But the incidents have created more than a rise in people's ire. Early in October Rudy Rudominer, vice president of the Student Government Association, looked at what was happening and decided something needed to be done. "I felt it was much too important an issue to go unaddressed, that not enough campuswide dialoguing came from these events," he said.
Rudominer expressed his concerns to Sylvester Hope-well, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services, and out of their conversation the Unity Task Force was born. A coalition of students, administrators and faculty from all over the University met to discuss ways to bring people together, not necessarily to catch who was responsible for the acts of intolerance, but to keep such acts from happening again.
"It offers an opportunity to concerned individuals in the campus community to get together, strategize some ideas, develop a proactive strategy and be out front, as opposed to being reactive to these kinds of heinous events, crimes-acts of destruction, really," Hopewell said.
In existence for barely more than a month, the task force already has placed an ad on the back cover of The Wheel urging unity across campus and inviting anyone who's interested to participate in the task force's programs. Rudominer also placed a message on LearnLink, and he said the responses he's gotten have showed him the task force's mission strikes a harmonious chord at Emory.
"People are telling me that even if they can't make the main meetings, they'd like to get involved," Rudominer said. "I think it has a lot of potential and is accomplishing a lot in a short period of time."
At one meeting the task force hosted Jordan Forman of the Anti-Defamation League, who spoke of the ADL's history and its efforts in awareness and education. Rudominer said the task force is organizing a ribbon campaign in which members of the Emory community can sport the University's colors in support of unity and in defiance of intolerance.
Both Rudominer and Hopewell said they're not sure if the task force will continue in the long term and that it will depend on who might step up and assume leadership once Rudominer is no longer around. "I think it should keep coming up with solutions because I don't think unity is something that can be dealt with and figured out overnight," he said.