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In harrowing times, students can turn to each other for support

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SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

There’s been one major silver lining in the last week. In the face of unprecedented harassment, fear and discomfort, students have rallied around each other, providing support and comfort in harrowing times. They’ve had to.

On Wednesday, Trump supporters harassed a group of Black students gathered outside of Golden Bear Cafe for their weekly “Black Wednesday” event.

Right-wing protesters attacked local business Revolution Books three times in the two days after Milo Yiannopoulos came to campus, allegedly yelling rape threats and phrases such as, “Die commie scum” at store employees and customers.

The threat presented to marginalized groups, incited by speakers such as Ben Shapiro and Yiannopoulos, is real and incredibly harmful. No one should have to elbow through crowds of white supremacists and hoards of police or jump orange barricades to make their way to class.

And yet, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had the gall to take the mic Tuesday at Georgetown University and deride UC Berkeley for offering counseling to support community members that felt unsafe ahead of the Ben Shapiro event.

The events of the last weeks, including “Free Speech Week” — complete with screaming white supremacists, suffocating attention from national media and an abnormally high number of classes canceled — is overwhelming for students who are just trying to go about their lives. The psychological and physical threat is compounded for Black, Latinx, undocumented or transgender students whose communities face disproportionate levels of police brutality.

So Sessions is simply wrong to dismiss the importance of counseling and community support at a time in which college students encounter raw, targeted and blatant racism and harassment on a daily basis.

When Black students were harassed outside GBC on Wednesday, protesting allies formed a circle around them with their bodies to shield them from Trump supporters. Other members of the community have also risen to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by Free Speech Week.

Students and faculty members swiftly mobilized: The English department sent out a spreadsheet put together by students in partnership with Latinx Emerging in English to connect people who might feel safer walking to class in groups.

On a campus teeming with white nationalists from out of town, students are often each others’ only and best advocates. As Free Speech Week recedes into the past, students will search for different ways to heal and decompress. For some, it’s as easy as taking a day to picnic at Dolores Park or taking a night off to binge-watch and clear their headspace. Escaping isn’t easy, of course, because even grabbing a casual meal on the south side of Berkeley can be an uncomfortable experience, given that Pappy’s has become a hub for right-wing protesters. For many, it’s a time to connect, or reconnect, with important community-based support groups and safe spaces.

Here are some helpful resources:

Muslim Student Association: MSA was created to foster a social community for Muslims on UC Berkeley’s campus. The MSA provides drop-in counseling and an “Ummah Talks” support group.

Multicultural Community Center: The MCC is a student-led space that aims to build intercultural collaborations between students. It provides a study space and an inclusive environment for dialogue. On Wednesdays, the MCC hosts dialogues, art-making and teach-ins.

Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center: The Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center provides Black students and organizations with space to organize and engage in academic, social-cultural activities, leadership, community development and networking activities.

Gender Equity Resource Center: GenEq is UC Berkeley’s on-campus community center dedicated to promoting inclusivity through programs and services related to gender and sexuality. Find GenEq on Sproul Plaza on Oct. 4 and help create affirmation posters that will bolster overall morale on campus.

Underrepresented Researchers of Color

UROC creates community and educates its members in order to increase the number of students of color in undergraduate research programs, and it aims to make sure that these students succeed in these programs. UROC hosts workshops and does campus outreach.

Undocumented Students Program

The Undocumented Students Program provides academic counseling, mental health support and financial aid guidance. In addition, the program also offers comprehensive free legal resources in partnership with the East Bay Community Law Center. Through the program, undocumented student can apply for emergency grants or make an appointment with legal support staff.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017