On Sep. 25, multiple students came to the defense of UNO student Shiloh Walker after she referred to a trans man as “it” and repeatedly using racial slurs on the UNO Social app. While many sided with Walker, excusing her language as her right to practice the First Amendment, others both inside and outside the trans community took action and informed the administration of the behavior on the app.
After two days of arguments, debates and hateful comments being posted on the app, dean of students Dr. Carolyn Golz posted a statement regarding Walkers’ comments, the effects those comments have on the trans community, and why it is important to spread positivity and not hate on a school platform.
While the statement did bring ease to a few students, it also started multiple debates on whether or not there should be consequences for Walker’s actions and the thin line between free speech and hate speech. President Nicklow emailed all staff, faculty, and students, sharing his thoughts about the situation.
“I recently learned about some hateful, offensive posts on the UNO Social App,” he stated in the email. “These posts dehumanized others, specifically trans and black individuals. I’m writing today to speak out against those posts, to reaffirm that we value diversity and to reiterate that we do not condone hate speech or bigotry.”
He also commented on why certain words hold such strong meaning for minority groups, “Words have meaning and often have a historical context. When we use words that have traditionally been used to dehumanize and facilitate violence against others, we perpetuate the racist and bigoted history that cannot be separated from those words.”
Queer and trans students on campus attended a meeting with Dr. Golz and Dr. Desiree Anderson on Sep. 30 to have an open forum on how these events have affected the LGBTQ+ community and what they need from the school. Students shared how this mentally and emotionally affected them and their hopes for a stronger consequence for Walker from the administration.
While this was a safe space to express students’ feelings on the situation, many felt like there was not enough focus on Walker and the other students who antagonized trans students and made “jokes” at their expense.
“I’m scared and angry that I have to feel scared at a university that likes to flaunt how ‘inclusive’ they are,” said Qwen Maxie, who is openly trans on campus. “To come out because you feel safe and then immediately feel unsafe again is unacceptable. I am also alarmed at the apparent lack of urgency for the safety of entire groups of students.”
These emotions are shared throughout the trans community on campus, where it is hard to feel safe with such blatant transphobia on a school app. Allys such as Matthew Broussard also attended the meeting to listen and learn about trans issues on campus.
“I’ve been trying to educate myself and learn, but it sucks to see this get worse and worse, to see no action taken,” Broussard said. “ I get free speech, but I have never been to a school where it is okay to openly be a bigot on a school platform.”
This is not the first time UNO has had to address transphobic remarks on the app or campus as a whole. Last year former SGA president, Kenady Hills, invited trans students to speak with her about comments on the app and their experience as being trans at UNO. Students asked for a moderator on the app to take down hateful posts and comments, but a year later we are still running into the same problems. Last March, SGA created a resolution challenging UNO and its administration to “reaffirm its nondiscrimination statement,”which is supposed to protect the safety and rights of trans students. With no steps for actual disciplinary action for students like Walker being taken, we can’t expect any change on campus.