Viral hashtag showcases inequities at the University of Iowa

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Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Update, Thursday, Feb. 28: On Tuesday, organizers behind @DoesUIowaLoveMe reached out to Little Village and said they plan to share and clarify information about the movement in a statement to the media Wednesday evening. To Little Village’s knowledge, this statement was never released.

A recent hashtag has many University of Iowa students and alumni voicing their concerns about how some populations of students are being supported on campus. The hashtag, #DoesUIowaLoveMe, is meant to encourage current and former students to tweet ways in which they think the university could improve in making all students feel welcome, safe and valued.

Twitter user dennis (@_denisep137) introduced the hashtag Monday afternoon, responding to the existing #ILoveUIowa hashtag, promoted by the university. dennis’ initial tweet was a call to action for students to share their stories:

Former University of Iowa Student Government President Rachel Zuckerman, as well as others, posted about the importance of stepping back and listening to concerns that are being raised with the hashtag.

Shortly after, a Twitter account of the same name as the hashtag, @DoesUIowaLoveMe, was created, with a mission statement saying, “We are here to cultivate and promote a platform that allows underrepresented students to be able to speak their truths and share their experiences.”

Since Monday evening, hundreds of Twitter and Instagram users have posted using the #DoesUIowaLoveMe hashtag, sharing stories of discrimination by classmates, advisers and instructors based on their race, gender, sexual orientation or financial status. Some shared stories of sexual harassment and assault that they believe were handled ineffectively by the university.

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Many UofI students are currently posting about their struggles as marginalized minorities at the university with the hashtag #DoesUIowaLoveMe. • As a gay, first generation Latino immigrant from Brazil, I have felt the pressure of being a part of underrepresented minorities. To being one of the only people in a room speaking for/with LGBTQ+ individuals (and the anxiety that comes along with having to “out” myself every time), to dreading the inevitable conversations where my citizenship comes into question (and all the follow-up questions that come after that) during discussions about politics and elections, there are countless situations where I have questioned my value here. It can be hard to feel like you belong when you only see your identities being honored once a month in a tweet or IG post that feels like more of like a chore than anything to the university. • But aside from these identities, I also hold A LOT of privilege as a cisgender, able-bodied, white man, and it is crucial to acknowledge that and what the implications of that are. I urge all the students reading this to look around you and see what the reality is for other students at the university. Be aware of your privileges in all situations and make sure that those with marginalized identities are able to have a voice as well. • If you don’t think this is a real issue, please look at the posts tagged with #DoesUIowaLoveMe. There are so many individuals sharing their stories, and they’re stories that must be heard. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is so much more than an Instagram post on Pride month, a delayed Black-History Month tweet, or a copy & paste diversity message to a student who publicly complained about the school. We must urge UofI to continue the DEI efforts that they have already started by making them a priority rather than a clean-up job. • @uiowa, it is time to hold students accountable for speech that incites fear in minority students. It is also time for the university to hold faculty and staff accountable for comments that target students with underrepresented and marginalized identities. UofI cannot be our home until all students feel safe, respected, and honored.

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The University of Iowa tweeted an official response Tuesday afternoon, thanking students for sharing their stories and voicing their commitment to “improving our campus climate.”

Melissa Shivers, Vice President for Student Life, also posted a personal tweet this morning, stating, “You matter and we hear you.”

According to the UI Office of Strategic Communication, Shivers and her team are working directly with students to address the issues discussed through #DoesUIowaLoveMe.

The organizers of the movement declined to comment for this article.

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