Student of color targeted with slur in First-Year residence hall

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Students and faculty of color meet Tueday night after the Association of African American Students called an emergency meeting. The meeting was called after a racial slur was written on a white board on the door of a student of colors dorm room. SAM CARAVANA / THE DEPAUW
Students and faculty of color meet Tueday night after the Association of African American Students called an emergency meeting. The meeting was called after a racial slur was written on a white board on the door of a student of colors dorm room. SAM CARAVANA / THE DEPAUW
Students and faculty of color meet Tueday night after the Association of African American Students called an emergency meeting. The meeting was called after a racial slur was written on a white board on the door of a student of colors dorm room. SAM CARAVANA / THE DEPAUW

The class of 2020 had been on DePauw’s campus for 15 days when one of its members was the target of a racial slur.

Last Sunday, the abbreviation “H8” followed by a racial slur was written on the whiteboard of an African American student and all of the names of African American students were torn off their doors on the second floor of Humbert Hall.

“I haven’t even had my first test yet,” said Dante Stewart, a first-year posse scholar from Brooklyn, New York.

The issue was brought to the administration’s attention when first-year Kaleb Anderson saw a post about the situation made on the Class of 2020’s facebook page. He screenshotted it, and then sent an email to President Mark McCoy telling him about what happened and how it needed immediate action. McCoy responded to him personally telling him he was appalled and will work to address the situation.

“I’m honestly not surprised,” Anderson said, “Coming here and making that decision to attend DePauw, I knew mentally I had to prepare myself for something like this. I just didn’t think that this would happen 2 weeks into school.”

While some were not surprised at what happened, others were very taken aback. “I am kind of shocked,” said the victim, “I knew there was going to be racism, I knew there was going to be microaggressions, but I didn’t know it was going to be this blatant.”

The incident was first reported through the Community Living and Campus Development (CLCD) staff on Sunday. CLCD and multicultural student services reached out to Public Safety to report the incident. Public Safety became aware of the incident on Monday morning. Currently, Public Safety and the Bias Incident Response Team are pursuing investigations.

The Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) works with students in “bias” situations to make sure the appropriate actions are taken and students involved are connected to the right resources. The BIRT consists of seven people from several different departments in the University. The team includes people from Public Safety, Student Academic Life, Campus Living and Community Development, and Campus Life departments. The leader of BIRT is Jeannette Johnson-Licon, Interim Associate Dean of Students for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Assistant Director of Public Safety, Captain Charlene Shrewbury will be leading the Public Safety’s investigation.

McCoy sent out a campus-wide email on Tuesday morning, two days after the incident, addressing the situation and informing the student body of what happened. “Incidents of bias and racism are unacceptable on our campus,” said McCoy in the campus-wide email, “Our values call upon us to address incidents such as this one directly and to work together toward an inclusive environment.”

People also felt that the wording of the email sent by McCoy could have been more specific. “This should be brought to everyone’s attention, and now that it’s been two days people should know it was not just a vandalism with such a derogatory term, because people do this and think they can get away with it,” said the victim, “I don’t want to trash the University and say they didn’t do anything for me, because they are doing something for me.”

The Association of African American Students organized a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss what had happened on campus. “It makes me feel better motivated to tackle these kinds of issues on campus,” Anderson said.

At the meeting, students and faculty voiced their concerns that the administration was not doing enough to ensure students of color were feeling safe on campus.

“I think that Public Safety should have sent out an alert, as they do with other crimes, saying that this is an issue, this is what happened, and assure the students that they were going to be in a safe environment,” said Professor of Political Science Clarissa Peterson, “It seems like the administration is sort of behind the ball and unfortunately waiting on students to guide them.”

In addition, people felt the administration would not have done anything without the push of the students who organized the meeting. “We keep having these meetings, but nothing is being done,” said President of AAAS, junior Shirley Tandy, “At this point I feel like the students can do their job better than they can.”

Other students also felt there needed to be more students present at the discussion. “Why isn’t this a student-wide thing that is being talked about, I mean we’re talking about this emotional thing in a building and white people are like going out about their business,” said the victim, “People just go about their business and they just don’t understand how these personal things or how people of color take all this shit from people and all this discrimination from people just because of the color of their skin or the way they look.”

Resident assistants in Humbert Hall are also making sure that their services are offered to students in the form of meetings, and discussion. “They offer a lot of support to anyone and everyone and that helps us feel more included,” said freshman Angel Torres.

Many students feel there could have been more done by the University after the situation happened. “They addressed it but they aren’t doing anything to go against it, at least not right now,” Torres said, “I know we are going to have a house meeting tomorrow night but I feel like that can go even further in terms of consequences and punishment.”

Some students have expressed feeling unsafe about where they live on campus now. “I feel definitely unsafe because I’m from the suburbs of Chicago so all my friends are Hispanic and African American, so I feel like being a minority here makes me feel targeted, especially where people here are predominantly white or caucasian,” said Torres.

“I knew there were ignorant people, but I just look at people and think you could have been the one who wrote on my wall, you just don’t know,” said the victim, “That’s the scariest fact, you’re scared of the unknown.”

Public Safety believes pursuing the investigation seriously will be helpful in making students feel safe on campus. “The officer who is investigating has went over and has had conversations with people who live in the area and is trying to gather information that way,” said Director of Public Safety, Angie Nally.

Public Safety will continue patrolling campus, but they are also hoping people will bring information they have about the situation forward.

“I don't want to move dorms because I don’t want to give that person the power of making me afraid,” said the victim.

Nally encouraged any student with information about the situation to reach out to public safety either through phone, email or the new Campus Eye App.

The victim and others are distressed by how little is known. “Why am I being targeted I haven’t done anything? I’ve just been chilling, talking to people, and being friendly, and I’m the one targeted,” said the victim, “it’s just a whole factor of why.”

- Sam Caravana contributed to this report