Photo Source // Catie Cheshire,
By: Catie Cheshire, Editor-in-Chief
On the night of Wednesday, Sept. 25, the Regis community received an RU Alert notifying them that a flier with the image of a swastika was found in a professor’s office. This notification was disturbingly similar to one issued last November when fliers proclaiming “White Lives Matter” written above a swastika were placed under the doors of Jewish and black faculty in the Loretto Heights School of Nursing. Because of that history, when the Regis University Student Government Association (RUSGA) received the notification they knew they wanted to act quickly.
“We needed to send a strong message to our student body today that RUSGA isn’t just sitting on our hands doing nothing,” said RUSGA President Annelise Pehr. Pehr explained that RUSGA carefully considered what their action should be in light of cultural factors that this generation of Regis students face such as passivity due to feeling like it’s impossible to prevent hateful actions like these. That’s why they settled on a rally—not only to show students and faculty that they have a community to lean on, but to show people who might perpetuate hate that the community is stronger than them.
RUSGA also coordinated emailing professors to ask them to talk about the incident in class and address it with students so that students would have formal channels to discuss the incident if they needed them. They even coordinated poster-making in the Student Center to help students put their emotions into words and strengthen the message of the rally. Though the poster-making wasn’t well attended Pehr emphasized that giving students options and organizing a unifying event quickly was RUSGA’s main goal.
“We live in a world where everyone likes to plan and there’s something really powerful about momentum and responding immediately,” Pehr said. “Rather than it being a perfect event let’s show students that we’re here for them right away.” That momentum clearly functioned as, just 24-hours later, Regis community members gathered in front of the Student Center to rally together.
Pehr opened up the rally by reading a statement from Yael Green, a Jewish Regis student who is studying abroad but wanted to respond when she saw the RU Alert. Green, who spoke at the March Against Hate RUSGA organized last year in response to the previous incident, expressed her sadness at having to make another statement, urging Regis’ administration to take stronger preventative actions. However, Green also expressed hope that coming together as a community could change the pattern of hate.
“While I am angry, frustrated, scared, and sad, I can’t lose the hope that our campus can condemn these actions,” she stated. “The Jewish people have faced countless forms of prejudice and have experienced extreme events such as the Crusades, the pogroms, the Holocaust, and more. Every time, we keep showing up and ensuring that we have a place in our world. Jews are taught to love our neighbors, to live closely with the same God our monotheistic communities share, and to repair our world bit by bit.”
Pehr then emphasized that those repairs don’t fall only on the Jewish community. They fall on everyone at Regis because every person is affected when hateful or racist incidents like this one occur.
RUSGA Vice President Nicholas Aranda took over to continue that theme and contextualize the situation further. Aranda described last year’s events and made it clear that these incidents are born of white supremist ideology which is part of what makes them so unacceptable. According to Aranda, rather than let white supremacy go unanswered, Regis gathered today to reclaim our campus, hence the name of the event, “Our Campus”.
At the March Against Hate that Aranda harkened back to, students met on the steps of the library. That’s the traditional space where Regis students have always met to protest and to rally. For example, in fall 2016 Regis held a Black Lives Matter rally on those stairs. For this rally, RUSGA wanted to do something different.
RUSGA Vice President of Diversity Regi Worles, who took the podium next, explained that they wanted to meet at the Student Center because they knew students would be the people pushing for change and asking the tough questions in light of this incident. Worles said that goes back to the Jesuit values that guide Regis students like cura personalis and magis. According to Worles, the idea what we ought show up for each other, care for each other and continually pursue justice through difficult times are sewn into our campus and RUSGA wants to lead that charge.
This event was the start of actions in that pursuit for a more just world. RUSGA Vice President of Involvement Tricia Charfauros took the mic to continue that action by leading students in a chant of, “This is our community. This is our campus. This is Regis,” before welcoming the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Bob Engel, to share some words.
Engel and some fellow Trustees learned about the rally today and came after their board meeting ended. Engel came because he wanted to thank student leadership for calling out causes that need to be called out. He emphasized that the Board knows that the heart of a college campus is the faculty and students and the Board stands with faculty and students against incidents like these.
“This type of act is nothing short of disgusting,” Engel said. “It’s nothing short of unacceptable...The trustees are asking the hard question of, ‘How can this happen?’ You can’t stop everything from happening but I can assure you that the administration of this university, the trustees of this university, will employ the resources we need to to make sure we can prevent this from happening.” Engel’s statement echoed sentiments of student leaders and added reassurance that the Board is informed and knows they have a role to play in creating change.
To culminate the event, students partook in a silent march around the quad, walking in solidarity with each other around the center of campus to take back the space that a hateful person tried to make unsafe.
“This move was made in cowardice,” Aranda said in his remarks. “It’s a tactic done to silence, to divide communities and claim space. Our presence here and now holds more space than they did yesterday...We take up more space in unity and in pride.”
That statement summarizes RUSGA’s hope that this rally would serve as a useful reminder that even in the face of hatred Regis can stand strong together.