A racist word was written on a white board in Humbert Hall on Oct. 12. Shortly after midnight, a white resident assistant (RA) found the word written outside their residence hall door.
The RA, who wishes to remain anonymous, said, “I knew I had to take immediate action” because the word strongly misrepresented the DePauw University community. Directly following the incident, they sent out a message to all of the residents in the hall to express their disappointment and intent to identify the suspect.
Public Safety and Resident Assistant supervisors were quickly contacted to discuss the perpetrator’s possible motives. The RA mentioned there have been previous occurrences where whiteboards have been used to write derogatory language, “These incidents are hard to prevent….but you don’t just erase it and pretend it wasn’t there. The worst thing you can do is disown it.”
Alan Hill, vice president of student academic life, was involved in action taken by the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) following the incident. He says, “We made sure we triggered an alert,” referring to an email sent by Myrna Hernandez, dean of students, to the student body. The email provided notice of the incident and requested anyone with information to report it.
Cameras are currently being checked in an attempt to identify the student. However, there are only cameras in the stairwells/common areas, not the resident hallways where the incident occurred. Hill says sanctions against the individual will “depend on [criminal] identity and evidence that connects the individual to the incident.” He believes everyone at DePauw, especially students, should be involved in taking action to prevent future bias incidents, because they are the “eyes and ears” of campus spaces.
Angela Nally, director of Public Safety, said in an email that when/if the student is identified, he/she will be reported to Community Standards, who will in turn make charges based on University policy. Nally emphasized the importance of providing quick and accessible information about these incidents “to set the culture of not tolerating this behavior on campus.”
In terms of prevention, Nally mentioned the efforts of another group on campus: Bias Education and Action Team (BEAT) which strives to educate the DePauw community about diversity and inclusion. Recently, BEAT removed objectionable graffiti from campus property such as desk and chairs in an initiative called “Campus Clean-up.”
Both Hill and Nally emphasized the importance of awareness and education of bias incidents. Hill says, “We have an obligation to continue to educate our members of our community on understanding, and appreciating, and respecting, and valuing difference.”