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After Racial Incidents, UNH President Tells Graduates: 'This Is Not Who We Are'

UNH President Mark Huddleston (right) with honorary degree recipients and honorees at Saturday's ceremony, including Gen. Lori Robinson and Gov. Chris Sununu.
Casey McDermott
UNH President Mark Huddleston (right) with honorary degree recipients and honorees at Saturday's ceremony, including Gen. Lori Robinson and Gov. Chris Sununu.

Commencement ceremonies took place this weekend at UNH, after a tense few weeks at the school, with a series of racial incidents prompting  community-wide conversations about campus diversity.

This weekend’s ceremony offered a chance to reflect but also to look forward. 

UNH President Mark Huddleston, in his address to students, noted growing hostility in online and offline spaces.

“Sadly, our own campus has not been immune to these forces,” Huddleston said. “We’ve had symbols of hate scrawled on our walls, we’ve had students and staff brutally assaulted, even spit on. Facebook and other social media sites have been used to harass, demean and provoke. These things have happened at UNH, and there’s no denying it. And we’re going to address the, forcefully, as a community in the months ahead.”

But, Huddleston said, those incidents are not a reflection of the broader UNH community.

“At bottom, this is not who we are,” he said. “We are better than that. I know you’re better than that.”

Graduates interviewed at Saturday’s ceremony said the incidents – while unfortunate – prompted a necessary and important discussion about making sure all UNH students feel included.

“I think it’s definitely an important conversation,” said Marquis Carr. “But you know, you’ve got to keep developing. Keep furthering the conversation. That’s the only way it’ll go anywhere.”

Amber Laprise said she was optimistic

“I think it’s good that everyone’s starting to open the comm unication,” Laprise said. “That tends to be a big problem, a lack of communication or miscommunication, so getting the conversation started is probably the best step in this.”

Another student, Garrette Craig, said he was hoping this would be an opportunity for broader reflection.

“I think everybody should come together and just focus on graduating and being a better version of themselves,” Craig said.

Such a message was reinforced by Huddleston during his speech.

“Tolerance, humility, respect, compassion, charity – you brought those values with you to this great university where they have, I like to believe, been reinforced and burnished in our class and residence halls and on our athletic fields,” Huddleston told the graduates. “Bring those values back with you into the world.”

Copyright 2021 New Hampshire Public Radio. To see more, visit New Hampshire Public Radio.

Casey McDermott is an online reporter covering politics, policy, and New Hampshire news. She also works on digital reporting projects for NHPR's newsroom.
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