Partnership to Foster Social Justice at Both Campuses and Beyond
By Liam Farrell
A Maryland honor guard and members of the campus community surround the Memorial Chapel Garden of Reflection and Remembrance Labyrinth in May 2018 to honor 1st Lt. Richard W. Collins III nearly a year after his murder. A new collaboration between UMD and Bowie State University will both honor his memory and create new opportunities to learn about and foster social justice.
A new collaboration between the University of Maryland and Bowie State University will honor the memory of 1st Lt. Richard Collins III, who was killed on the College Park campus in 2017, by creating new opportunities to learn about and foster social justice.
UMD President Darryll J. Pines and BSU President Aminta Breaux announced the BSU-UMD Social Justice Alliance today, the same day a state law broadening the standard for hate crime prosecutions and named for Collins went into effect. They were joined via video by Collins’ parents, Rick and Dawn, who have started a foundation in their son’s name.
“We believe this is the only way these ills in our country will be solved,” Dawn Collins said. “We fight for 1st Lt. Richard Collins III. He was a jewel in the crown of democracy.”
UMD has also created a new scholarship in Collins’ name, with special consideration for ROTC students. A memorial is planned to be unveiled in the near future.
“I saw myself in Richard. More importantly, I also saw my son in Richard,” Pines said. “We see ourselves in him because 1st Lt. Richard Collins III was dedicated to service, and now it is our turn, our honor, to serve him.”
The alliance will have teams at UMD and BSU composed of top faculty and staff with relevant research experience working to integrate social justice principles and concepts on and between campuses. Georgina Dodge, vice president for diversity and inclusion, will lead the UMD team.
With seminars each semester and an annual symposium, the alliance will develop opportunities for the UMD and BSU communities to speak together and seek ways to address topics such as hate and bias in society, economic inequality and white nationalism.
“We’ll have a much bigger impact in terms of making sure things like this never happen again,” said Zahrah Siddiq ’22, president of the UMD NAACP chapter. “We have more than the power needed.”
Collins, a Bowie State ROTC student posthumously promoted to first lieutenant by the Army, was waiting with friends at a bus stop near Montgomery Hall on May 20, 2017, when then-UMD student Sean Urbanski approached the group and stabbed him. Found guilty of first-degree murder last December and scheduled to be sentenced next month, Urbanski was also charged with a hate crime due to racist memes discovered on his phone and membership in Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation”; Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill dismissed that charge, however, ruling prosecutors had failed to show Collins was killed specifically because of his race.
In response, the Maryland General Assembly modified the state hate crime statute to allow prosecutions for crimes “motivated either in whole or in substantial part” by another person’s or group’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin or homelessness.
“We knew that we could not let that interpretation stand,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, who virtually attended today’s announcement. “We must change laws to ensure that people who are committing hate crimes in our state are held fully accountable.”
The Collins family said they hope both the revised hate crime statute as well as the broader alliance become models for efforts around the country.
“This has been incredibly emotional and painful, yet purposeful,” Rick Collins said. “We’re hopeful and eager to get started.”
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