Hate crimes continue: Additional security cameras installed in residence halls

Religious leaders led prayers during the healing service held on Dec. 13 in response to the hate crimes. Photo Credit: Corey McFeeley

A hate crime was reported to FSUPD by a resident assistant from Corinne Hall Towers at approximately 12:20 a.m. on Dec. 8, said Sgt. Martin Laughlin.

This is the fifth hate crime being investigated this semester and the second to target this student, said President F. Javier Cevallos.

All the hate crimes have targeted black students with racially-charged notes that have been placed near their dorm rooms. The most recent note read, “Still a n-word! Ha.”

Laughlin said each of the crimes are being investigated individually and in the same manner.

Cevallos announced the hate crime in a campus-wide email on Dec. 8.

“I’m saddened to share that we received a report of racism on campus overnight targeting one of our students of color,” read the email.

Carlos Barbosa, Jr., a first-year student and resident in Towers, was the target of the two hate crimes that have occurred in that building.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, Barbosa shared on Facebook an email he sent to Cevallos on Oct. 29 after three similar hate crimes had occurred in Larned Hall. Barbosa’s post was shared over 300 times and has since been deleted.

In the email, Barbosa called for all members of the FSU community to complete mandatory racism and anti-bias training and asked if administrators would meet with him and members of Black Student Union and Brother to Brother. Barbosa does not currently belong to either club, but he said he plans to join.

“Institutional changes are influenced and sparked by interpersonal dialogue about the issue,” said Barbosa.

In the Facebook post, he also shared Cevallos’ response to his email, which did not directly address Barbosa’s request for a conversation.

Barbosa said in his post, “The big missing piece hasn’t been done. Here we are, still waiting for the proposal to be met.”

When contacted by The Gatepost, Cevallos apologized and said his email to Barbosa was “misunderstood.”

He said, “I had been out of town and just trying to reply to all emails.  I hope all students know my door is always open!  I did reach out to the BSU leadership trying to schedule a meeting in October, but class and other schedules have not worked out.”

Destinee Morris, BSU president, said the group will be meeting with administrators after break.

Millie González, interim chief officer of diversity, inclusion and community engagement, said it’s important for students to understand that it’s “not us against them. It’s really how do we get through this together?”

Many members of the faculty and staff, including all FSUPD officers, are completing anti-bias training on Dec. 18 and 19 with the Racial Intelligence Training and Engagement academy.

As a result of the hate crimes, the school has offered all students access to an online anti-bias training course. A mandatory training course will be implemented for incoming students next year.

According to González, a Board of Trustees member is contributing an additional $1,000 to the reward already being offered for information regarding the hate crimes.

In addition to training courses and community events, such as a non-denominational healing service and the Unity Workshop, four additional security cameras were installed inside of Larned Hall because of the hate crimes that occurred in the building this semester.

In Cevallos’ email on Dec. 5, he said, “We are continuing to install additional security cameras in and around our residence halls. Police and Residence Life staff are also increasing patrols in the areas targeted by these hateful acts.”

Laughlin said adding these cameras inside of Larned means FSUPD can now capture video of anyone who enters and exits the building, as well as what floors they access while in the building. Before these installations, Larned was equipped with cameras in the lobby and the elevators.

According to Glenn Cochran, director of Residence Life, student opinion on additional video surveillance in residence halls varies – some feel their privacy is being invaded with added cameras and some feel that video monitoring should be more widespread.

“We want to be in concert with our community and our community may not be unified around this,” said Cochran.

“It may stop recurrences, but it doesn’t necessarily get to the root of the problem. A camera is not going to change somebody’s mind and heart if there is hate in it,” he added.

Cochran said reinforcing our mission and values with existing and incoming residential students will hopefully deter anyone who doesn’t share these values from coming to or living at the University.

Laughlin said the cameras act as a deterrent as well as a good resource for footage that can be recalled if anything is brought to the department’s attention.

Barbosa said, “I believe the cameras will deter people from taking part in these hate crimes from fear of being caught, but that still [is] not addressing the issue of racism and accepting that racism still exists.”

He added some people may see the cameras as “invasive,” so students should be consulted about camera installations.

The cameras placed in Larned were positioned so they capture activity in the stairwells, but do not record activity in resident hallways.

González said, “The discussion of adding more cameras to residence halls is important and should include students.”

Senior Vanessa Cefalo said she believed the University did not respond quickly or aggressively enough after the initial hate crimes were reported.

She added she is a commuter student and if she lived in a residence hall, she would have expected cameras to be installed after the first or second hate crime.

“How is it fair to people that they’re paying thousands of dollars to go and live somewhere they don’t even feel safe at? I think that cameras in the halls are long overdue at this point,” said Cefalo.

SGA President Kyle Rosa said added security for students is always an “improvement.

“These acts of hate are despicable, but there is no ‘How-To’ guide on how to stop it. I think the administrators have been open about what actions they are taking by emailing the student body information and offering different open discussions,” he said.

SGA, Psychology Club and other groups on campus have started campaigns and addressed the hate crimes during meetings, Rosa said.

He added despite the “disgrace” these crimes have brought to the FSU community, they have forced students to “stand up for what is right and work harder to bring equality to our campus.”

Junior Iyla Driggs, who helped organize the student walk-out in October, said she believes the hate crimes need to be taken “more seriously” by administrators.

“It’s our school and we the students are the ones who make up the campus and make the University what it is. So, they need to put our needs first and do what is best for us, not what is best for them,” she said.

González said the hate crimes have “affected everyone” on campus and the campus “definitely has a few bad apples.

“I really prefer not to dwell on them, just to say that those types of individuals don’t realize that what we’re doing is treating this as a hate crime, and they might not realize that is a serious issue – that they will suffer serious repercussions,” she said.

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