Op-Ed: Support NYS Hate Crime Protection Act

Queens College Understatements Exhibit Opening
Queens College President Frank Wu
FIle photo by Paul Frangipane

Yesterday, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law The Hate Crime Protection bill that requires colleges and universities that receive state funding to investigate and publicize online campus hate crime statistics. The bill was written by State Sen. Toby Stavisky and Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal.

I commend and thank Hochul, the bill sponsors, and the legislature for their leadership in taking this important step to combat hate crimes. In accordance with the federal Clery Act, Queens College publishes its statistics about hate crimes and bias-related incidents each year in its annual security report, in addition to publicly outlining the policies and procedures we have put in place to improve campus safety. The most recent report is available online here.

The law particularly resonates with us as an institution—serving students from over 133 countries and who speak over 96 languages—where we have identified diversity, equity, and inclusion as being among our essential values in our 2021 – 26 Strategic Plan. Central to the Queens College mission is developing and enacting initiatives that prepare students to serve as citizens in a diverse world that they make more equitable and inclusive. Here are several examples:

Dismantling and Combatting Hate: I appointed the first Dean of Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer at CUNY Jerima DeWese, who heads an office with twice the number of professionals as staffed it previously. Year-round programs have been implemented by the dean and the Office of Compliance and Diversity, such as a full-day Dismantling and Combatting Hate Conference held on April 21, 2023. Participants examined and discussed the current rising trend of hate incidents, speech, protests, symbols, and crimes that have occurred on college campuses throughout the country and in society at large. The conference was the culminating event for Queens College’s first Diversity Week—April 17-20, 2023—which featured workshops and speakers focusing on antisemitism, racism, LGBTQA+ resilience, accessibility and disability awareness, sexism, and the impact of discrimination.

Campus Bias Training Initiative: In response to the increase in hate crimes in our borough, city and state, Queens College has launched this initiative for campus stakeholders.  Such training has already been completed by campus leaders and bias training will be offered to the QC community during the 2023-24 academic year.

Campus Climate Surveys: Understanding and assessing campus climate is essential in data-informed decision making, creating policy and procedures, and assigning appropriate resources to address identified areas of concern. Such surveys have been and will continue to be administered to assess the culture and climate of the campus community so we can be fully prepared to admonish hateful acts.

Rantus Rock Dedication: With the superb help of the Queens College Community Advisory Committee, this year we designated a new outdoor space on campus, surrounding Rantus Rock. Located near Benjamin Rosenthal Library, the rock is dedicated to the memory of Wilson Rantus, a 19th-century African American businessman and abolitionist-activist in Queens. Rantus owned multiple properties, founded a school for Black children and campaigned against slavery and for African American suffrage.

Center for Religious and Racial Understanding (CERRU): QC houses and staffs CERRU, a community building and programming entity that trains and educates the college community in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) matters. It works to create safe, vibrant, just, equitable engagement spaces to support students, faculty and staff in becoming knowledgeable and equipped to navigate a diverse society.

Student Affairs Engagement: The Office of Student Affairs works closely with thriving student communities through Hillel; Chabad; the Lutheran ministry, the Vine; the Muslim Student Association; the Ikaros Greek Orthodox Club; and the Catholic Newman Center, which provide opportunities for self-discovery and interfaith enrichment through a series of lectures, observances and celebrations.

This is just a sample of the initiatives underway to promote a welcoming environment for students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community we are privileged to serve.

 Frank Wu is president of Queens College.