“Not on my campus.”
“We have more similarities than differences.”
“While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”
These were some of the messages written on a door propped up in the quad Wednesday at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, as students responded to incidents of racism in the past week. A note with racial slurs was left on a student’s on-campus apartment door, and a Confederate flag was painted on the boulder in the middle of the quad.
In response, the women’s studies department and students planned the Door Project, and passing students, faculty and staff were encouraged to write messages of peace and anti-racism.
“What did we do to you?”
“White silence is violence.”
Chancellor Randy Pembrook said SIUE police are investigating the incident, and when the perpetrator is found, charges will be filed.
It is not the first time this has happened, either.
Chief Kevin Schmoll confirmed that in April, Jordan S. King was charged with a hate crime, a Class 4 felony, for leaving a racist note on a student’s door. King pleaded guilty Sept. 11 and received one year of probation plus fines and fees.
And in November, students staged a walk-out after racist notes were left in dorms, telling Latino students to “build the wall” or black students to “go back to Africa.” A Latina student reported racial slurs shouted at her from people in a passing car, and a Muslim student reported that someone pulled off her hijab.
The women’s studies department called on the university to create an atmosphere in which minority students feel safe and welcomed, and to request a faster response from the administration. Pembrook said it was clear the administration needed a better plan.
“One of things we learned from the event last week is that we have to have a more immediate response,” he said.
Pembrook said they are working on a plan for a 24-hour helpline, quicker availability to counselors and assistance, and working closely with the police department to investigate incidents. Diversity measures will be a major part of his annual state of the university address, scheduled for Thursday morning, he said.
“No Nazis at SIUE.”
“Being peaceful and silent protests aren’t working anymore.”
“I’m scared to be me.”
Student Ciara Kellus said she wrote on the door that people can exercise their First Amendment rights without being disrespectful.
“For somebody to draw a Confederate flag on the rock, knowing that’s going to offend half the campus, makes it unsafe for minority students on this campus,” she said. “And I never felt like that on campus until now, because I live in Cougar Village, also. To know that someone is running around writing sticky notes like that and leaving them on people’s doors, it makes me uncomfortable.”
Student Christian Carroll said he found the recent incidents “disgusting.”
“It’s terrifying to be around that,” he said. “This is a place of higher education. People come here to learn about other cultures ... to not show respect for another group is disgusting and doesn’t make me feel safe.”
But student body president Ramon DeShazer said he was encouraged by the number of students who lined up to write on the door Wednesday.
“It’s inspiring to me, to see so many students regardless of traditions, values, morals, beliefs, where you come from, regardless of who you are, to see all these students come out to support one individual,” he said.
“We are all human beings, the least we can do is act like the same species.”
“Hate has no place at SIUE.”