URI junior rallies campus to ‘Stop the Hate’ Nov. 18

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 17, 2009 – Those who want to know what motivated University of Rhode Island junior Christina Knoll to organize the “Stop the Hate at URI” Silent Protest, Wednesday, Nov. 18, should look at her childhood.

They would find that her mother and father taught her lasting lessons about respect and tolerance.

“They have always told me to stand strong for what I believe in and don’t doubt myself no matter what people say to me,” Knoll said. “They made me strong enough to be able to organize this.”

Knoll and other members of the campus community will gather at noon on the Kingston Campus Quadrangle for a 15-minute silent protest against bigotry. Free T-shirts will be given out in the Memorial Union lobby Wednesday morning from 8 to 11 a.m. The protest follows the discovery by students of bigoted messages in various campus locations.

A wildlife and conservation biology major from New Jersey, Knoll has been handing out and posting flyers and talking to administrators about the rally.

The resident assistant heard about hate crimes happening on campus and “I wanted to give URI students a voice about what is happening on their campus. Hatred is found not just in writing, but in the way people speak to each other and their choice of words every day.”

“This movement does not just address hate crimes on this campus, but hatred and hate crimes worldwide. We as students aim to send a message that we will not stand for any type of hatred, bias, discrimination, or prejudice here or anywhere we go.”

She has received strong support from Chip Yensan, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of Housing and Residential Life, Hall Director Michael Lapointe, as well as staff members of Housing and Residential Life, some student organizations and friends.

In addition, Donald H. DeHayes, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and Thomas R. Dougan, vice president for Student Affairs, sent a joint email message encouraging campus community members to attend.

“We urge faculty and staff to join with us and the students in this shared expression against hate,” the notice said. “Faculty are asked to provide any possible and reasonable flexibility to students who wish to attend the noontime event. We support this student-generated program, and others like it, as important forums through which our community may voice collective opposition to hate and bias of any kind. This is our time to pull together as a community that cares to celebrate and respect the diversity that defines URI.

Despite the support, Knoll said many people have questioned the value of the protest, mistaking it for a complete solution. Knoll said there is no single solution to the problem.

“Beyond Wednesday’s “Stop the Hate” silent protest, we see several initiatives evolving,” Knoll said.

URI has already had one meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice and a second is scheduled with full student participation. The URI Equity Council created a Student Subcommittee. Through the Council, faculty, staff and students will work together to create educational sessions, and they are also initiating work with the URI Center for the Study of Nonviolence and Peace.