Series of racist threats roil St. Thomas campus

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    ***Sigh. Something like this happened while I was in college in one of the colleges associated w/ Sr.Thomas. At least, it was your run of the mill hate group who didn't like any ethnic group. Can't comprehend being singled out. At least they're not intimidated and have support.But this will impact them for a long time. MN, seriously, what's going on??***

    [​IMG] Series of racist threats roil St. Thomas campus

    "We're not going to leave," say the three black female students targeted. The university is investigating and providing extra security.
    By Jeff Shelman, Star Tribune
    Last update: October 31, 2007 – 11:04 PM
    Security guards escorted Malaika Smith and her two roommates to their classes at the University of St. Thomas on Wednesday. A public safety officer is posted outside their second-floor dormitory room 24 hours a day.Since late Monday, Smith and her roommates, all of whom are black, have received racist and threatening notes at the John Paul II Hall, a women's dorm. Three of the notes were either scrawled on a message board on the dorm door, taped to the outside of the door or slipped under it. The fourth was slipped under the door of a computer lab in John Paul II Hall where one of the women was working.
    University President the Rev. Dennis Dease denounced the incidents as a hate crime, and a "Stop the Hate" rally and march have been planned for today.
    "I never thought I would have to walk around campus with an officer," said Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore who grew up in Minneapolis. "But in extreme times you have to take measures."
    She shares the dorm room with fellow sophomores Danielle Matthias and Aquanette Early.
    St. Thomas spokesman Jim Winterer said that while university officials don't know what prompted the threats, they are "taking the incidents as seriously as we can take it." A St. Paul police officer is also active in the investigation.
    After the first two incidents in the dorm, which is usually accessible only to residents and guests, were reported early Tuesday, the school sent public safety bulletins by e-mail to every student and to all faculty and staff members. A third incident occurred Tuesday evening and the fourth early Wednesday, prompting another e-mail alert.
    "What you have are individuals who are ignorant and insensitive to the humanity of all persons," said Lawrence Potter, executive director of institutional diversity at St. Thomas. "This is simply an assault on the entire community, and it's unacceptable. Not only is it illegal, it's intolerable."
    Students of color make up a little more than 10 percent of the St. Thomas student body, which includes about 5,800 undergraduates. There are no solid numbers on how many of those students are black.
    This is the third time in 2007 that St. Thomas has dealt with racial issues. In February and March, racial slurs were written on posters in lounge areas of McNeely Hall.
    In its previous campus safety reports to the federal government, St. Thomas did not report any hate crimes from 2003 to 2006.
    Smith said she was shocked, then angry, when the first message was found on the dry erase board on the door of the room. She said she and her roommates are resolved not to be intimidated.
    "It's a great school to be at," Smith said. "This is the first time I've ever experienced a hate crime like this. Nobody's ever called me any racial slurs before or nobody's ever made it known that they don't like me because I'm African-American. That's why it was so shocking for me."
    Lauren Miller, the resident assistant on the women's floor, found the third of four notes taped to their door.
    "It was pretty explicit," Miller said. "It had profanity and a pretty harsh threat.
    "The girls it happened to have a really good support system," she said. "It's good in that sense, but it's horrible what has happened to them."
    Smith said it would be difficult to determine who wrote the notes by the handwriting.
    "It looks like somebody wrote with their left hand, to tell you the truth," Smith said. "I'm not sure [whether it was a man or woman]. Usually men have a little sloppier penmanship, but it seems like if it was a female, they were using their left hand so their penmanship wouldn't be identified as easily."
    Threats aren't uncommon
    Nationwide, racial threats aren't uncommon on college campuses. Since the start of the school year, there have been incidents at the University of Maryland, Kent State and Indiana State.
    Occasionally, such incidents prove to be false. In September, a cross-burning in an Anoka yard turned out to be the work of the black man who lived in the house.
    But St. Thomas officials said they consider this week's threats genuine and serious, especially after violent acts on campuses across the country, including shootings at Virginia Tech and Delaware State.
    Smith said the reaction on campus has been mixed but supportive. Some students said they are fearful for their safety, she noted.
    On Wednesday, posters saying "Stop the Hate" and "Bigotry Thrives When Hatred Is Tolerated" went up in preparation for today's event.
    Beginning at 11:30 a.m., students will march from opposite sides of campus and meet in the middle. A forum will be held in the student center.
    Threat targets unbowed
    Despite the threats, Smith said she has no plans to leave campus.
    "I'm just to the point where I'm not going to be intimidated by these people," she said. "We are working to show them that we don't take any intolerance. We don't tolerate that at all; we won't deal with it.
    "We won't deal with hate speech or hate crimes on anyone, especially in a dorm where it's supposed to be your home and the place where you're supposed to be safe.
    "We're not going to run away from this issue. What these people want us to do is to leave. The one note said, 'You better leave or else.' They want us to leave and we're not going to leave."
    Jeff Shelman • 612-673-7478
    Jeff Shelman • jshelman@startribune.com

    © 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

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  2. It's ridiculous this stuff is still happening. Especially at post-secondary institutions. Idiots need to get out of their little boxes.
     
  3. I was shocked to read about this and see it on the local news.

    It's a Catholic (religious) university!
     
  4. How sad. Especially in this day and age, you'd think we as a species had evolved into something other than cave-persons by now.
     
  5. Argh, racism always makes me so mad! Seeing it happened in tertiary level education makes me even more mad!
     
  6. Disgusting...

    They need to find the people who wrote those notes, expel them from school, and ban them from getting into another university.
     
  7. WHAT is going on! I just recieved an email from the psychology department at my university (that is my major) informing me that a professor in another university in another state had a noose hanging on the door to her office. Some of our professors know her professionally or have been friends with her for many years. This is so sickening and scary. Anyway the email was to let us know that we can give our support by doing XYZ...but I can't believe how almost every week there is something new on the news. And yes, especially surprising that its happening in universities. :sad: