A spokeswoman for the University of North Texas called a recent petition to name a planned new residence hall after a person of color or a woman “a form of reverse racism,” according to the campus newspaper UNT Daily.
Student Government Association senator Misaki Collins told the newspaper she started the petition when she realized through campus tours that none of the university buildings are named after a person of color. Only two buildings are named after women, one of which is a residence hall and the other is off campus. The petition garnered 489 signatures the first day, the Daily reported.
Collins posted a screenshot of the email she received from spokeswoman Nancy Kolsti on her Twitter account. The email said in part, “UNT buildings should be named after individuals who are deserving of such an honor - not individuals who are chosen to fill a quota system that you think the university should have because you feel that it is important ‘to promote diversity in every aspect of the student experience.’”
At least 50 percent of UNT's student population is of color, according to the 2016-17 annual report by the university's Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity. About 53 percent of students are female.
Collins highlighted another section of Kolsti’s email that said “Insisting that UNT must have a residence hall named after another woman or a ‘person of color’ when there are other deserving individuals is imposing a quota system, and, to me, that is a form of reverse racism.”
In her own statement, Collins wrote that she respects Kolsti’s right to her opinion but was alarmed that she is an official spokesperson of the university.
“The argument of reverse racism, is in itself racist.” Collins wrote. “This dangerous narrative is unacceptable from someone who is a professional staff member that is employed to represent UNT. This is completely against the values and mission of our university.”
Collins and Kolsti did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
“Honoring diversity is one of our most important values,” UNT Associate Director of News Leigh Anne Gullett said in an email statement. “We encourage our students to take an active role in helping to shape the university and applaud the actions of our Student Government to petition for values in which they believe. UNT also supports free expression from all of its community members – including university employees. Nancy was expressing her views as a private citizen and not speaking in her capacity as a UNT employee. Public employees generally retain the constitutional right to free speech they hold as private citizens.”
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