North Texas

UNT Staffer Under Fire for ‘Reverse Racism' Comment

A University of North Texas communications employee is at the center of controversy for claiming a student-led petition amounts to "reverse racism."

The petition calls for the naming of a new building after either a woman or a person of color. Students who started the drive are surprised by the response they received.

The idea came when UNT junior Misaki Collins looked around her campus and noticed that of the dozens of campus buildings only two are named after women, and none after people of color.

"It was really upsetting," Collins said. "Because I'm talking about how diverse UNT is and how great it is and how much I love this school, and there's a lack of representation in a lot of different aspects."

Collins started her petition drive in early February, suggesting a new residence hall being built on campus should change that.

When Collins received a reply from a university employee, she was floored.

"I think the email is what made it controversial," she said. "If you read the petition, it's not controversial at all."

The email was sent by Nancy Kolsti, a longtime UNT University News employee.

It read, in part, "Insisting that UNT must have a residence hall named after another woman or a 'person of color' when there are other deserving individuals is imposing a quota system, and, to me, that is a form of reverse racism."

"At first I was really shocked," Collins said. "I was more shocked when I realized who it was."

"It is a slap in the face to see a response like this," said Chelsea Abii, president of the UNT campus chapter of the NAACP. "If there's racism, it's not coming from us. Asking for representation on campus should never be considered reverse racism."

The university issued a statement, saying, in part, "We encourage our students to take an active role in helping to shape the university and applaud the actions of our student government to petition for values in which they believe."

Regarding the email — sent from Kolsti's personal account — the school said, "UNT also supports free expression from all of its community members - including university employees."

"It was really disheartening," said Collins, who wants a meeting with UNT administrators, and mandatory diversity training for the employee who wrote the email.

"Honestly, it wasn't enough," Collins said of the response to the email. "A slap on the wrist like this doesn't do anything."

On Wednesday, several campus groups will hold a town hall meeting to plan strategy and promote diversity on the UNT campus.

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