“I am outraged and tremendously disappointed in the behavior displayed by a group of students,” says Texas A&M University President Michael Young, after a group of students from an inner-city high school were called racial slurs and told, “Go back where you came from.”
That last quote was relayed by state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, who says that he was briefed by Texas A&M officials. The incident occurred during a visit to the College Station campus Tuesday by 60 juniors, part of a program called the Road to College at Uplift Education.
University officials who were with the Dallas high school students reported the confrontation and called police, who filed their own report — although, West notes, “A campus officer initially said the A&M students were expressing their First Amendment rights.”
“Uplift Hampton school officials said Thursday that they were disappointed by the incident,” member station KERA reports. “The charter school is devoted to helping economically disadvantaged students get into college. Many come from families with no experience in higher education, and campus tours are their first encounters with universities.”
One of the students who was on the field trip is Tariq Smith, 17.
“I just thought it was another day of hate,” Smith tells local TV station WFAA. “People are going to hate people for certain things,” he added. “Sometimes it’s not fair what they hate you for.”
Even after the experience, Smith tells WFAA, he’d still like to attend Texas A&M.
“I still want to go to that college, because there’s great people there,” he said. “But now I know there are some negative people there, too.”
The incident began, West says, when a white female student approached two black female students from Uplift Hampton Preparatory, a school in his district. The A&M student asked the high school students what they thought about her Confederate flag earrings.
Soon afterward, a group of white male and female students told a larger group of students, “Go back where you came from,” and began taunts “using the most well-known racial slur that’s directed toward African-Americans,” West says.
“West wasn’t there when the incident occurred, but he said he was briefed on it later by A&M System Chancellor John Sharp,” KERA reports. “A spokeswoman for Uplift Education, which operates the charter school, said West’s description was accurate.”
In an email sent to the university community, Young said, “the actions of a few certainly do not represent our institution as a whole.” He also said that he has met with the student-led inclusion council to discuss how Texas A&M “can improve in making all people feel welcome and safe on our campus.”
by Bill Chappell
Dear Uplift Supporter,
I want to make you aware of an incident that involved Uplift’s Hampton Preparatory Junior Class. On Tuesday of this week, Uplift Hampton Juniors were taking their college trip to Texas A&M in College Station. During their campus tour two separate incidents occurred where racially charged slurs were directed to our group of scholars by some college students. Uplift staff immediately called Texas A&M officials who quickly responded to support our scholars and staff. Uplift Hampton staff, likewise, quickly provided the necessary supports for scholars, families and staff to be able to process the incident. We are incredibly proud of our scholars and staff for the grace and composure with which they responded to the college students who chose to engage in a disrespectful and unacceptable manner.
While I appreciate the swift response of the leadership at Texas A&M, I want to in no way undermine how seriously we take this situation. Uplift has zero tolerance around racism and disrespect of our scholars, families and our staff whether inside our schools or in other environments. It is my hope that we can broaden the conversation at colleges locally and across the country about increasing inclusion and cultural awareness programs so that all students can feel safe and welcome on college campuses regardless of their ethnicity and background. Currently, only 8% of low income students in the United States graduate with a college degree within 6 years. At Uplift, we are laser-focused on fulfilling our mission of ensuring that 100% of our seniors, many of whom are the first in their families to seek higher education, are accepted to college. We strive toward our goal of 70% of our graduates earning a degree within 6 years through structured support provided by our Road To College program. You have my commitment that Uplift will continue to engage with universities in creating the best college environments for the students we serve.
CEO, Uplift Education