Hate crime investigations underway at FSU

Two racial slurs were found in Larned Hall this weekend, according to Sergeant Martin Laughlin.

The first slur, found on a Black Student Union (BSU) flyer placed outside a dorm room, was written Friday, Oct. 13 between 12:30 p.m. and 12:55 p.m., according to an Framingham State University Police Department (FSUPD) Facebook post.

The second slur, found outside the same residents’ door, was written Sunday, Oct. 15 at approximately 10:30 a.m., according to Laughlin.   

Both incidents are being investigated as hate crimes by FSUPD, Laughlin said.

On Friday, Interim Chief Officer of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement Millie González sent out a campus-wide email informing the FSU community about the first incident.

She said, “This incident is deeply disturbing and we are going to do everything we can to determine the party responsible. … That person(s) will face serious student conduct charges, which could include expulsion from the University, as well as potential criminal charges.”

That evening, Larned Hall’s resident assistants and director had an emergency floor meeting in Larned Hall to discuss the incident with González, she said.

On Sunday, shortly following the second incident, University President F. Javier Cevallos sent out another campus-wide email informing students the University will do “everything in our power to determine who is responsible and hold them accountable.”

In that same email, Cevallos announced the University would be hosting an open forum Monday, Oct. 16 for students, staff and faculty to discuss their concerns in more detail.

At the forum, Deputy Chief of Police John Santoro said 52 students and several members of the Residence Life staff have been interviewed. FSUPD is also reviewing camera footage around Larned Hall and “will continue to work with any leads that come into the police department.”

According to Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Lorretta Holloway there are no cameras placed on residents’ floors. There are, however, many cameras placed around campus, she said.

Holloway said although she understands some students would like to have security cameras in dorm hallways, there “is an issue of privacy.”

She added, “I think it’s going to have to be a bigger discussion in the residence halls with all the students. … Some students want them for safety, but some students are like, ‘I’m going to be walking from the bathroom in my towel. Do I want to know that I’m being filmed doing that?’”

Santoro said FSUPD has increased security around Larned Hall and is working closely with Residence Life and administrators.

“We have increased both foot and mobile patrol in the area, including walkthrough beats in Larned Hall itself,” he said. “We are focusing and directing our video cameras on specific areas.”

On Tuesday, during the Black Student Union open discussion in the Forum, Nicole Harvey, one of the two Larned Hall residents whose flyer and dorm door were vandalized, described the incidents to the audience.

Both residents are BSU eBoard members and juniors.

Harvey said at around 12:54 p.m. her roommate, Eunice Bwambok, noticed “[n-words] club” was written on the BSU flyer she had placed under her dorm door tag.

Both of the residents left campus after the incident, she said, and arrived back at around 6:45 a.m. Sunday morning. A little after 10:30 a.m., Bwambok came back to her dorm after using the bathroom and found “[n-words] live here” on the door written in black marker.

Harvey said the officer who responded to the first incident asked questions that made the residents feel “personally offended.”

According to Harvey, he asked, “Do you guys think this could be some sort of friendly act?” She said the officer told her he asked because he has heard “that word in the community more than he would like.”

As of press time, FSUPD Chief Brad Medeiros said he can’t confirm those claims, as he hasn’t spoken with the officer involved. However, he has met with the two residents and said, “There seemed to be a communication breakdown between what the officer was trying to ask and how he was asking.”

He added, “Before I meet with both parties involved, it’s very hard for me to comment on that.”

Medeiros said he is in contact with the Anti-Defamation League and will have every campus police officer take a workshop that details the “best practices” for handling bias incidents. He plans to have the workshop within the next month or so, he said.

He said he “anticipates” the workshop will help train officers to better communicate with everyone in the FSU community.

Cevallos said, “What comes really clearly out of this whole thing is that it’s 2017 and people are tired of having to talk about racial incidents in 2017. … We have to continue to move forward, and the only way to do it is through education. Racism is just ignorance.”

González said one of her biggest objectives is working on providing support and racial bias training and education for students, faculty and staff.

She said one of the ways she is doing that is by hiring more staff for the Center for Inclusive Excellence. According to González, “Out of the Center is where we do the support, the education, the training – everything that deals with the students.”

BSU President and junior Destinee Morris said although she was “disgusted” by the incident that occurred on Friday, she didn’t write a post on social media because she wanted to wait to see how FSU responded.

On Sunday, she said she “was even more mad.” She said not only does she see it as an attack on the two individuals, but an attack on BSU “as a whole.”

She added, “I know the school is very supportive, but it just makes me view things very differently, honestly. … On Monday, at 8:30, my professor wasn’t going to address the issue and then today at my 12:30, again, my professor wasn’t going to discuss the issue.”

Morris said she believes the incidents should have been discussed in every class, because although “ignorant people” might not attend open forums about the racial slurs, every FSU student attends at least one class and it’s in the classroom that one is educated.   

On Tuesday, Provost and Vice President Linda Vaden-Goad sent out an email to faculty asking them to let “students know that you understand and share their concerns and are available to them should they need your help.”

She said, “It is important for all of us to acknowledge that there are students who are angry and hurt and who do not feel safe on this campus. In the forum, some students expressed resentment because they do not see evidence that faculty and administration care when these events occur.”

SGA Vice President Jack Capello said after the first incident, he felt frustrated, but he knew he wanted to “incite change.” He said the second one “pushed me over the edge.”

Capello said he will work with BSU in achieving its goals and help start “continuous open dialogue on campus about race and its inequalities.”

He said, “Above all else,” he wants to help start the healing process “for those affected and make sure they feel they are within a safe environment.”

Junior Angus Guien, a resident of Larned Hall, said he was “totally unsurprised” by the first incident, but after the second incident, he “didn’t want to be related tangentially to the incident.

“The racial slurs on the flyer incident – I guessed some asshole would do something like that. It happens every year,” he said. “But being so bold as to deface her door in a very targeted attack is some serious stuff.”

Junior Deja Willis said she “was angry when she heard about the incidents. My initial reaction was to fight. That’s what I really wanted to do, but I know at the end of the day, violence doesn’t solve anything.”

She said she doesn’t think the University is tackling this situation as seriously as it should be.

“In two weeks, this is going to be swept under the rug,” she said.

Junior Danielle Daugherty said she didn’t find the incidents surprising. Overall, it was just sad, she said.

“I knew where the poster was. I knew whose room it was because they are my very close friends. We’ve been friends for three years. So, it was kind of like, ‘Here we go again,’ because it’s not my first time dealing with something like this.”

Daugherty attended Concord Carlisle High School and said a similar situation happened there. According to a Boston Globe article, in 2013 the school discovered graffiti on a carrel in the school’s library that had “a curse word and a racial epithet that disparages black people.”

She said, “It’s sad that’s it’s 2017 and racism is still prominent – it’s still going on right now.”

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