TACOMA, Wash. – Three minority students at the University of Puget Sound who were suspended until 2019 for allegedly creating a “Bigots of Puget Sound” list of students and faculty on campus are filing an appeal.
Students Akilah Blakely, Andres Chavez, and Lydia Gebrehiwot received letters from university officials last semester banning them from campus until 2019 after an investigation found they allegedly created a list of students and faculty dubbed “Bigots of Puget Sound,” King 5 reports.
“It’s going to affect me in a lot of negative ways,” Blakely told the news site. “I’ve already started applying for jobs for positions that require a bachelor’s degree. It’s going to set me back for three years.”
Blakely and Gebrehiwot were expected to graduate this year, but all three students were instead suspended for harassment, disrespectful behavior and violations of student policies and procedures, according to the letters.
The list, uncovered in November, labels 22 students and faculty on campus as racist, sexist, misogynist, or transphobic without providing any context or rationale. The students won’t divulge whether they were actually involved with the Bigots of Puget Sound, but defended the list as an outlet for expressing frustration with an allegedly hostile environment for minorities on campus.
“I think the list itself it’s absolutely a form of activism,” Blakey said. “If the institution isn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing to protect all of its students, well, something is going to happen if there is no other avenues to express all of the hate that’s going on campus. What do they expect?”
Last month, dozens of Puget Sound faculty sent a letter to the editor of The Trail – a student news site – that acknowledged “dehumanizing behaviors” on campus but condemned “the accusation of members of our community without evidence and context.”
“It is important to remember that the university has procedures for dealing with such serious accusations as the ones made in the flyer, procedures that are consonant with the principles of the rule of law that underpin all democratic communities,” the Dec. 6 letter read.
“If any student has knowledge of an act of violence or hate, they should bring charges under the University’s Student Integrity Code or the Harassment & Sexual Misconduct Policy. If any student feels threatened they should seek out the myriad resources on this campus for support.”
University officials issued a similar statement shortly after the bigot list was discovered in the school’s library in November, and have since refused to discuss the details of the incident, King 5 reports.
“As a community, we place a high value on freedom of speech. That freedom requires balance and does not extend to speech that violates our harassment policy, our integrity principle, and other policies that affirm the values of our community,” Isiaah Crawford, the school’s first black president, wrote. “These policies are in place to respect the rights, promote the dignity, and protect the safety of everyone on our campus.”
“We must be vigilant and unwavering in our efforts to advance our goals to become the welcoming and inclusive campus we aspire to be, which means we will not tolerate harassment of any kind or in any form at Puget Sound,” he wrote.
Students identified on the list did not want to be identified by King 5, but one told the news site in a Facebook message that “the list was a big thing on campus and it made my life harder on a day to day basis.”