The color of solidarity
Augsburg College community confronts bias-based assault
In all their classes, Augsburg College faculty faced a sea of orange on Tuesday, and yellow on Wednesday. Students coordinated a very visual response to a hate crime that took place on campus early in the morning on Sunday, September 26.
More than 250 students participated in a “Rally 4 Respect” to express their unity as a community and their commitment to be in solidarity with students who are marginalized or victimized.
Augsburg College’s Director of Public Safety John Pack issued a campus crime alert in response to the physical assault of a male student on campus. Two unidentified men hit a 19-year-old student after hurling derogatory insults at “the student’s perceived sexual orientation,” the alert stated.
Students reacted immediately, establishing a Facebook page under the theme “Stand Up to Hate,” which quickly had 500 followers. Through the use of social networking and by handing out flyers on campus, students called on the Augsburg community to wear clothing representing a different color of the rainbow each day of this week, beginning with red on Monday.
“Students then brought in staff and faculty,” Augsburg College President Paul Pribbenow told Metro Lutheran. “But the students still took the lead.”
Rally 4 Respect
On Wednesday, more than 250 students participated in a “Rally 4 Respect” near Anderson Hall to express their unity as a community and their commitment to be in solidarity with students who are marginalized or victimized.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can.”
“I am so proud to be an Auggie today,” began Rosie Benser, an Augsburg student. She then quoted Martin Niemöller, a pacifist Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany: “They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Campus Pastor Sonja Hagander quoted the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can.” She then went on: “By being here [at this rally for respect], we are offending the natural order of evil … We are returning hate with love. As a pastor and member of this community, it is a privilege to be drawn into this movement that loves one’s enemies.”
According to Pribbenow, Augsburg has a tradition of caring about the diversity of its student population. “We have a theological position that God created all of God’s creation as equals,” he said. “We believe deeply that this is the kind of educational institution that is enriched by this diversity, and that we are preparing students to go forward into the world … together even when there are disagreements.”
Juve Meza, day student body president, added that the Rally for Respect “shows how what happened to a member of our community has affected us all.” He praised the passionate outpouring by the student body.
The Wednesday rally closed with students reading the college’s new mission statement, which states “Augsburg College educates students to be informed citizens, thoughtful stewards, critical thinkers, and responsible leaders. The Augsburg experience is supported by an engaged community that is committed to intentional diversity in its life and work.”
“As a college president, how can you not be proud to have students reading the college mission statement,” said Pribbenow. “They know what the vision of a community ought to be.”
Tags: Augsburg College, bias crime, hate crime, John Pack, Juve Meza, Martin Niemöller, mission statement, Paul Pribbenow, Rally 4 Respect, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Sonja Hagander, Rosie Benser, Sonja Hagander, Stand Up to Hate