Last week, Sean Urbanski, a white former University of Maryland student, was charged with a hate crime in connection to the fatal stabbing of Lt. Richard Collins III, a black Bowie State University student. In May 2017, Lt. Collins was stabbed at a bus stop while visiting friends on the University of Maryland College Park campus. The entire incident was caught on camera. Prosecutors plan to seek life without parole if Urbanski is convicted; the trial is set to begin in January. At the time of the alleged murder, it was reported that Urbanski was the member of an online hate group that posted bigoted messages and memes called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” Authorities say further investigation into Urbanski’s cell phone and social media accounts uncovered evidence that suggested that the stabbing was indeed racially motivated.
Following this heinous incident, the University of Maryland held a memorial service in honor of Lt. Collins and released an action plan which included an additional $100,000 for the school’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a new rapid response team for hate based incidents that happen on campus.
Tragedies like the murder of Lt. Collins in College Park and the murder of Heather Heyer during the protests in Charlottesville in August, are indicative of an increase in racism and bigotry that's being displayed on and around college campuses across the country. In the last few months, Swastikas were found on the campuses of the University of Maryland Baltimore County, the University of Maryland College Park and Georgetown University in Washington. Bananas were hung from nooses around the campus of American University after an African American student was elected SGA president. At Boston College, racist fliers were found hanging on the campus; and last week, three men were charged with shooting at students who were protesting alt-right leader Richard Spencer’s appearance at the University of Florida. In the first month of school this year, the “N Word” was painted on black students’ dorm rooms at several universities across the country.
Lawrence Ross is the author of several books including his latest Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses.
Ashley Vasquez is a senior studying sociology at the University of Maryland. She’s a member of Delta Sigma Theta and she serves as the president of the school’s national Pan Hellenic Council chapter. She’s also a member Protect UMD, a coalition of organizations that represent minority communities at College Park.