PSU Vanguard Shield Icon

Racial epithets found in college dorm

Racial epithets and a crude picture of a lynching drawn on the dormitory doors of three African American students at Northwestern University have prompted a hate-crime investigation, officials said Wednesday.

At least four similar occurrences were reported on the Evanston campus in February and March, which started a campaign against hate.

The words and drawing were discovered about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday on two doors on the second floor of the dormitory, said Daniel McAleer, assistant chief of university police.

“It’s difficult to investigate because it happens in a matter of seconds and could involve students who live in the dorms,” he said.

Campus police have begun patrolling the hallways of the dorm called the Ayers College of Commerce and Industry, McAleer said.

Some African American students said Wednesday they were frustrated by the university’s response and want administrators to consider installing cameras in dorm hallways.

Others said those who participated should be expelled.

“There’s always going to be stupid little kids who write nasty things on doors and shout racist remarks at people,” said Marissa Jackson, a 17-year-old freshman and one of 164 students living in the co-ed dorm. “What’s more important is how the institution handles the situation.”

Any students involved could face a university judiciary process to determine whether they should be expelled, said William Banis, Northwestern’s vice president for student affairs.

“This is not a joke. This shows what is truly in some people’s hearts,” said Michael Blake, 20, of the Bronx, N.Y., who said he was among the students who first noticed the words and drawing Tuesday morning.

One of the offensive words was written on a door in green marker next to a small drawing of a man being hanged, Blake said. Another was scrawled on the second door.

Police consider the drawing of the man in a noose a threat of violence and are investigating it as a hate crime, which carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and fines, McAleer said.

Tracy Carson, coordinator of the black student alliance called For Members Only, said some African American students are questioning their personal safety.

“When someone is writing … on your door, why are you paying multiple thousands of dollars to dwell there?” said Carson, 21, of Chicago.

Members of student government met Wednesday night to set up a task force to investigate the incidents and study the university’s reaction.

Under a draft proposal, the task force would seek compensation for victims, a no-tolerance policy for hate crimes and cultural-sensitivity training for university police officers.

“Right now it seems as though the vandalism is occurring, but there is nothing occurring from the administration,” said Monica Meriweather, 18, a freshman.

The university is working to deal with the incidents, said spokesman Alan Cubbage. He said it was understandable that some students want security cameras and guards.

“We could have security guards and cameras, but if you ask most students if they want this stringent security in their living quarters, they’ll say no,” he said.

About 6 percent of Northwestern’s 7,500 undergraduate students are African American, Cubbage said.

All incoming freshmen attend a mandatory meeting to learn about diversity, Banis said.

The university also hosts multicultural dinners, offers staff training and provides online education about the need to respect other cultures and races, officials said.

In February and March, racial slurs and derogatory remarks about women and Jewish, Indian and black students were written on the doors of several residence halls, Banis said.

At that time, some students posted signs that said, “No place for hate in this room” on their dorm room doors. Others wore anti-hate buttons.

“I think it was effective in showing solidarity for those affected,” said Joanna Lee, 21, a senior from Burke, Va., and a dorm resident assistant. “We showed that this is not tolerated at Northwestern.”