“Show up for us”: UVU student speaks out against racial discrimination

Reading Time: 5 minutes UVU student Will Sintyl discusses his experiences of alleged racial discrimination. Sintyl and Deborah Colimon, president of UVU’s Black Student Union, express the importance of speaking out against racism and how it is a powerful method of fighting injustice.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A UVU student, Will Sintyl, has gone viral on social media for speaking out against the alleged racial discrimination he recently faced.

On Jan. 25, 2023, a two-part video call-out lit up social media pages from video creators @blackmenaces. With 36.5 thousand followers on Instagram and 722.1 thousand on TikTok, The Black Menaces are a coalition of students and influencers who fight “to empower marginalized communities through social media.” 

The videos, narrated by The Black Menaces member Nate Byrd, told the in-depth story of Sintyl — a Black student at Utah Valley University —  and the alleged racial discrimination he faced at the hands of his roommate, named as Brigham Young University student Jordan Karpowitz.

These videos have since accumulated an estimated 100,000 views; 20,000 likes; and nearly 800 comments on both TikTok and Instagram. 

In September 2022, Sintyl, a student majoring in social work at UVU, moved into a housing complex in downtown Provo. Almost immediately, the alleged discriminatory behavior began to occur. Sintyl claimed that Karpowitz showed an instant dislike for him and began treating him differently from the other roommates, all of whom were white. 

Sintyl alleged his new roommate used racial slurs in front of him and segregated the apartment bathrooms, leaving him to use one while the other three roommates used another.

“I reached out to my family, and they came over to the apartment around like midnight [in October 2022],” Sintyl stated. “And when they came, the conversation did not go well. … But yet, I still had hope that we can make it work.” 

Sintyl then reached out to friends in the same apartment complex for aid in confronting his roommates. One of these friends reached out to Karpowitz.

“Jordan was very rude to me,” stated the friend, who wished to remain anonymous. “He was cursing and raising his voice. His eye was twitching. I was genuinely worried for my safety while speaking to him. He was standoffish and dismissive during our conversation. Will’s other roommates were much more remorseful about the whole situation.”

Despite all attempts from Sintyl’s family and friends to end the alleged inappropriate conduct, the behavior continued. Finally, Sintyl reached out to his housing complex, urging them to evict his former roommate.

From left to right: UVU students Sam LeVitre, Will Sintyl, Ava Gonzalez, Joyce Elgadi, and Kim Morales Romero

Sintyl also reached out to BYU’s Honor Code Office, notifying them of the alleged behavior exhibited by one of their own students and demanding action be taken. With no apparent response from BYU at that time, Sintyl decided to take the matter into his own hands by turning to the media and involving The Black Menaces. 

Sintyl shared screenshots of text messages, audio recordings, photos, and more with The Black Menaces, who then created and posted the videos. As they began to garner traction on social media, UVU’s own inclusion task force, under the Black Student Union’s Instagram account, issued a video on Jan. 26 calling out the BYU Office of Belonging for their stagnancy as well as Karpowitz for his alleged “inhumane actions.” 

Sintyl also stated he met with the BYU’s Honor Code Office following the video’s release, where they told him they would be launching an investigation. “I should not have had to go viral [for people to act],” expressed Sintyl. 

“When we saw The Black Menaces video, we immediately knew that we had to say and do something,” stated the president of UVU’s Black Student Union, Deborah Colimon, who is featured in the video released on BSU’s Instagram. “We knew we couldn’t stay silent about any of it because for far too long, people have stayed silent about this matter, and we weren’t going to let it continue.” 

With the video, the inclusion task force’s main expectation was to ensure that both UVU and BYU were aware of the situation so Sintyl could get the resources he needed. They also wished to call out instances of unacceptable, discriminatory behavior. 

“The [videos have] been really good,” said Sintyl. “And so far, I am really grateful for everybody who is reaching out, everybody who does something, says something, because that really shows that I am not alone.” 

In speaking up, he stated his wish to spread awareness. “I truly want [all] students to know that they can speak up if they are going through it. … I truly want them to use their power by not being a bystander, by speaking up.” 

Sintyl further encouraged students to fight against injustice and raise their voices if they see any discriminatory actions among their peers. 

“It [doesn’t mean] you don’t care about people’s color, you care about their colors, you embrace their culture and support them. … We have that power to use our voice, so we must use it in a good way,” Sintyl further remarked.

“There isn’t just one way to take an active anti-racist stand,” said Colimon. “Racism is uncomfortable, and it is important to get uncomfortable when calling it out. Whether it’s saying something to the racist in person or sharing something on social media, there are a lot of ways to call out racism. Simply ask yourself what would you want someone to do if it was you being discriminated against.” 

Since the videos have gained attention on social media, Sintyl has prepared to continue spreading awareness and telling his story. Speaking out, however, can take its toll.

UVU students, Will Sintyl and Joyce Elgadi

“I feel like I take it step by step,” he said. “Sometimes I just feel really on edge. … I should have been able [to find justice] peacefully. There are people out there that are going through the same thing, that never say anything. That’s the reason I wanted to get it out as much as possible, as far as I can.” 

UVU has a place where students can report crisis situations and concerning behaviors as well as provide resources and education for those who seek it. At UVU’s “Report and Support” website, students experiencing discrimination, safety concerns, and anything in between can communicate with the university and expect action to be taken. Peers can provide support for their friends by calling out instances of injustice through the website. 

Following an inquiry from The Review, BYU Media Relations Manager Todd Hollingshead responded to the situation. 

“BYU is aware of this report and is handling this matter through our established processes,” the statement read. “We unequivocally condemn behavior and language that is hurtful and disrespectful. There is no place for hateful speech, or prejudice of any kind, on our campus or in our community.”

“We are committed to rooting out racism and strengthening all those who face these issues. Any groups or individuals who do not treat people from diverse backgrounds with respect and charity violate the values of the university and the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Hollingshead stated.

The Review reached out to Jordan Karpowitz for a comment and received no response. 

Sintyl shared his intent to finish his degree, attend law school, and remain an advocate for those whose voices go unheard. “I want everybody to know that you won’t just help me to find justice,” he said. “But [you will also] help the people who never felt like they had a voice to speak up.” 

“I think the best way to support Will is to take a stand against racism and show up for us,” stated Colimon. “Come to [the BSU’s] events, support our initiatives, and support AND respect Black people at UVU and EVERYWHERE.”

The Review will continue to update this story as more information follows.