University of Utah administrators send the wrong message by platforming hate speech while minimizing Pride. | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

University of Utah administrators send the wrong message by platforming hate speech while minimizing Pride. 

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In a case of truly tone-deaf timing, the University of Utah announced its decision to no longer wrap the Block U on campus in rainbow colors during its Pride Week, which takes place in April. Administrators claimed the wraps cause damage to the iconic U, incurring more costs than just that of the wrap, which has resulted in additional bills of up to $600 to fix the damages. Since the announcement was made, many local businesses have offered to help cover the costs.

Despite the puzzling timing, I have learned that many in university administration were made aware of the new policy in November 2023. It is likely no coincidence that was the same time frame during which the U made the choice to allow anti-trans speakers hosted by the affinity group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) onto campus. Author and commentator Michael Knowles espoused his anti-LGBT views in April at the Social Work building but not without protests.

When I asked Andrea Thomas, chief experience officer at the University of Utah, about this decision via email, I received a generic response. "I want to acknowledge and apologize for the stress and pain the recent Block U wrapping announcement has caused. I'm so sorry," the email said.

Thomas was a bit more forthcoming with The Daily Utah Chronicle: "It just doesn't feel like a good stewardship of funds," she told them. Thomas also expressed concern that if the U was wrapped "so often," it would stop representing the university as a whole. Thomas claims that something is in the works for next year's celebrations, but the U's LGBTQ Resource Center said they have no knowledge of new plans.

I followed up with Thomas by sending two separate emails. But I received no response.

It seems that the U is hoping we will forget the U was ever wrapped, and this drama will just all go away. I doubt it. Utah needs a public university that understands the difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. We need a university that has the back of marginalized groups and stops platforming those voices targeting people who are just trying to exist.

Higher education is a space where all thoughts and views should exist. But to placate hate groups while removing visual support of marginalized groups—that's sending a loud and clear message regarding the priorities of the University of Utah and the politicians who, for all intents and purposes, run it.

Ironically, shortly after making the announcement about the U, President Randall designated April 24 as University of Utah's "Day of Kindness." This seems performative at best. But just like their overlords at the Legislature, empty gestures now seem to be Randall and Thomas' standard operating procedure.

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Cat Palmer

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