Students 'stand in solidarity against hate'

Biology TA says he has not violated policy

Photos by Cameron McPhail/Staff Photographer 
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Chris Burton, senior in biomedical sciences, participates in "Students: stand in solidarity against hate" rally in the HSC Amphitheater on April 17.

Emma Owen
Blazer News Reporter

Michael Williams, biology teacher assistant said he had been a part of Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group, but recently quit his membership, in an interview with The Chronicle.

Williams said he did not breach UAB's policies, but refused to comment further.

I would like to say I've not violated any UAB policy/code of conduct or any laws at any time," Williams said. “Also, I think UAB handled this well and in the interest of all students.

He said UAB has conducted an investigation on him since the posters (read the posters here) appeared on campus, but recently allowed him to return to the classroom.

“I would [like to] tell students that we do take such allegations seriously and we are looking into these allegations,” said Paulette Dilworth Ph.D. and Vice President of UAB’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “We have engaged with all of the people who are considered experts in terms of monitoring and managing these types of situations.” 

Dilworth said that while her office has assessed the situation accordingly, this does not mean that there is a legitimate issue at hand.  

“Right now, we don’t have a reason to be concerned,” Dilworth said. “People may belong to organizations or say things that we don’t always agree with, but they have a right to do that and we have a right to express our displeasure about it. We don’t silence folks just because we don’t like what they say and do.” 

Dilworth said she encourages the student body to wait for factual evidence before believing hearsay from other students. 

“UAB has values that we all hold dear, but the takeaway is to not be so quick to jump to conclusions without [knowing] all of the facts,” Dilworth said. “This situation involves a student, [meaning],we can’t share all the information with people, and because of that, it messes with the level of ambiguity.  

Dilworth said she encourages students to educate themselves on UAB’s policies to understand that just because some might consider an action to be morally wrong, it might not break policy.  

“Some people are frustrated and angry,” Dilworth said. “This is an opportunity for us to get some clarity and use this as an educational moment to have these conversations among ourselves, so we do see things from a different lens, and not always the tunnel vision that I see people engage in.” 

Photo by Cameron McPhail/Staff Photographer
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Students participate in "Students: stand in solidarity against hate" rally in the HSC Amphitheater on April 17.

Dilworth said that she hopes this situation will encourage students to communicate their feelings in the future, rather than to retaliate. 

“[The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion] offers opportunities outside of the classroom for [students] to become more educated on these types of situations,” Dilworth said. We would like to have them involved in what is called Critical Conversation. We have branded them as public forums where everyone is invited to participate in civil dialogue on topics that people see as controversial.” 

On Wednesday, UAB Students for Diversity and Campus Safety, a student-led coalition promoting diversity on campus organized a rally to bring awareness to allegations of racism at UAB. In response to this rally, Dilworth said she was happy to see students spreading awareness to issues important to them.  

I think this is an important opportunity for students to have their voices heard and lifted,” Dilworth said. “We want to continue these dialogues and have an opportunity for students to have ongoing discussions about issues such as this.” 

Dilworth said she wants to remind students that UAB has each student’s best interest at heart.  

The university cares about our students in particular and we do want to keep the dialogue going,” Dilworth said. “[We want to] create a space where we can have these ongoing forums around issues in which people have different perspectives or different ideologies. I think that’s a part of the learning process and that is important. [UAB] especially embraces the idea of freedom of speech and expression and this is a great example of that. 

Arianna Villanueva, sophomore in healthcare management, said it was important for her to use UAB Students for Diversity and Campus Safety to help organize this rally. 

As a student at UAB, I really feel [the importance] as a marginalized individual to represent the voices that are marginalized on this campus,” Villanueva said.“[We want] to make sure [the safety of] marginalized students comes first. I think that everyone in this student-led coalition feels that way and they really want to come together without any other organization [to] make sure this campus is safe.” 

Photo by Allison Brown/CityLifestyle Reporter
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Poster displaying Identity Evropa's logo, outside UBOB on April 10.

Villanueva said that while she has not been taught by Williams, she still finds significance in advocating for other students 

I actually do not know [Williams] personally, but this is bigger than Williams himself,” Villanueva said. “There are other individualon this campus that identify with IdentityEvropaand with that being saidwe need to take a bigger action than just reprimanding one student. This needs to actually be a campus-wide initiative that is ongoing and student-led.” 

Villanueva said it is time to push our differences aside and unite as a student body.


This is not a matter of red or blue [and] this is not a matter of different ideas,” Villanueva said. “This is about [students’] safety on campus, and I would hope that UAB actually sees that and takes action after this event.” 

Villanueva said she has an important message to send to the student body. 

Student leaders hear you and we want to keep you safe,” Villanueva said.“We are not going to ignore this, and we are going to continue to fight for this, whether [UAB] wants us to or not. 

Bella Tylicki, junior in communication studies and political science, and USGA Chief of Staff, said that while her opinions do not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of other USGA members or the organization as a whole, she sees importance in rejecting ideas of hate. 

I want my peers to feel safe on our campus,” Tylicki said. “UAB is my home and a home to students of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, gender identities, sexualities, abilities, religions and cultures. 

Tylicki said why she UAB’s values.  

So much of the pride I have in this university is rooted in our dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, and we will lose our identity if we fail to safeguard these values,” Tylicki said. There is more value in diversity than in sameness, but each individual is valuable alone too. I will not stand for anyone in this community saying otherwise. 

Tylicki said it is important to advocate for equity and inclusion. 

I believe every person has equal intrinsic value,” Tylicki said.Yes, diversity is important because each person brings something different to the table, but a person’s value is not in what they can offer. The diversity of our student body is so much richer than what can be displayed by a spectrum of skin tones on a promotional poster. I want every student on this campus to feel seen, heard and valued by their peers, faculty and staff, and administration. Being a student representative is a responsibility, but it is also a privilege, and if I don’t use it as a platform to advocate for my peers then I have failed my duty as a member of USGA. 

In response to UAB’s policies regarding this issue, Tylicki said that UAB must uphold the First Amendment right to assemble.  

"I want to start by clarifying that the group in question is in no way affiliated with UAB,” Tylicki said. “University policies cannot disallow individual students or employees from being affiliated with any group, even hate groups. However, UAB policies do regulate what kind of organizations can be registered with the university. If a group or its constitution does not abide by university policies such as the Code of Conduct or Title IX, then the university reserves the right to refuse that group’s registration as a campus organization. If an individual student or employee is a member of a group that does not abide by UAB’s policies but is not a campus organization, which is the case in the current situation, then the university can monitor and/or investigate to ensure the individual is not violating university policies."

Photo by Cameron McPhail/Staff Photographer
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Students participate in "Students: stand in solidarity against hate" rally in the HSC Amphitheater on April 17.