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Hundreds gather to speak out against string of racist on-campus incidents

October 4, 2011

Students and faculty gathered at Conrad Hall to discuss reported incidents of racial slurs on campus. Brought together by the Black Student Alliance, the “Stop Racism” town hall meeting was put on last night to encourage members of the MSU community to discuss the issue of racism.

Photo by Derek Blalock | The State News

Hundreds of students and faculty members met to voice concerns and seek solutions for racial tensions on campus Tuesday night in Conrad Hall.

The Black Student Alliance, or BSA, hosted the Stop Racism emergency town hall meeting after a number of racially insensitive incidents garnered widespread campus attention.

Individuals shared stories of discrimination inflicted against them and voiced their concerns with the administration’s handling of several incidents on campus.

Between 11:45 p.m. Sept. 27 and 12:09 p.m. Sept. 28, an unidentified individual wrote the phrase “No Ni***rs Please” on the door of a 20-year-old female student in West Akers Hall.

Within a few days of that event, another student reported a racial slur written on a wall in Butterfield Hall and there were reports of a black doll hanging by its neck from a green, beaded necklace in the Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building, MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said.

There are no suspects for any of these reports, but investigators with the MSU Police Department have been assigned to each of them, McGlothian-Taylor said.

“Our department is working diligently on this investigation,” she said.

The student who reported the initial incident in West Akers has been relocated to a different residence hall, assistant director in the Department of Residence Life for East Neighborhood Joshua Gillespie said. The East Neighborhood staff has kept in close contact with the student and her family to make sure she feels at ease.

BSA president and education senior Mario Lemons said racial slurs and insensitivity is not new or unique to MSU’s campus, but it is something that needs to be addressed further.

The BSA was notified about three recent incidents via email and text message, Lemons said. The topic since has become widely discussed on Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media.

“The amount of incidents has not changed, it’s the amount of incidents that have been reported,” Lemons said. “I have friends who live in the halls who are always coming across these issues, this is nothing new. As far as the magnitude of awareness, that is what has changed.”

Gillespie said it is disheartening that racial issues such as this still exist, but he said with more than 46,000 students, MSU’s campus is going to be a culture shock for some.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia still exist today, and those feelings have been present on campus for years, Gillespie said.

The recent racist events that have drawn attention to this issue are just a few incidents, but this is nothing new, Gillespie said.

“I’m talking about this to make a change, I’m not trying to disguise anything,” he said. “As an administrator at MSU and as a black man I am disgusted. There are insensitive, asinine people in our world, and it is our job to try to educate and inform them. (Racism) is a problem on campus and we’re going to address it.”

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon sent out an email to address the recent issues Tuesday afternoon after the meeting was announced.

In the email Simon denounced the recent behavior and implored students to come forward if they have any information about the three incidents or any other racial slurring or discrimination that they witness or fall victim to.

During a meeting of MSU’s Steering Committee Tuesday afternoon, Simon referred to the incidents as “jerk behavior” and said although it has been a problem at MSU, it is part of a greater societal issue.

“We hope that … students will learn how to balance their rights of free speech with the chilling effects it has on others,” she said. “The question is how we together as members of this learning community can make it better for everyone.”

Simon cited the slurs as a protected form of free speech in her email, something that was widely criticized by several students at the meeting.

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Senior Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Denise Maybank was the only administrator whose presence was made apparent during the meeting.

Lemons said one of the main concerns of the BSA is that victims of racism feel as though they have nowhere to turn, and when they voice their concerns, their words fall on deaf ears.

Lemons said his goal going into the meeting was to create an environment where students have an open dialogue with administrators about racial issues.

“We want the administration to address these issues and look for solutions, which they have, but we want more,” he said. “This university is too large, has too much money and has too much influence to not address these issues.”

Beau Hayhoe contributed to this report.

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