Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was struck once again with racist graffiti Thursday, this time referring to black people as non-citizens on a classroom blackboard.
The message was left on a blackboard in SIUE’s Peck Hall and was discovered Thursday. It quoted in part an 1857 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford.
The message read, “No person of African descent shall be citizen of the U.S. ... nor were they ever intended to be. Dred Scott Decision — Google IT. What’s YOUR nationality? Million dollar question.”
The message was discovered by students arriving Thursday afternoon for a philosophy class, which was canceled as administrators were informed of the incident.
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The Dred Scott decision affirmed that Scott, a slave who was taken to free states and then sued for his freedom, remained a slave even when taken into free territories because the Constitution did not consider him a person. It was described by the university’s statement as “a historic decision that many scholars denounce as one of the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court and led to the addition of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
SIUE issued a statement late Thursday that confirmed the message was not part of a classroom discussion, nor was it part of any respectful or intellectual discourse regarding the Dred Scott decision.
“We recognize that hateful efforts clearly made to intimidate or disenfranchise SIUE’s black and other underrepresented students, faculty and staff are in violation of SIUE’s values of an accepting and inclusive environment,” the statement read. “We denounce racism and bigotry, and strongly encourage all members of our community to do the same and to act according to the university’s values of inclusion, wisdom, citizenship, integrity and excellence.”
There have been a series of racially-charged incidents at SIUE in the past year or two, including two instances of notes with racial slurs left on residence hall doors, a Confederate flag painted on the boulder in the middle of the quad, and earlier reports of racial taunts and slurs shouted at students of color during the tumult of the 2016 election.
In September, the racial slur left on a door spurred the Door Project, a community art project in which students wrote peaceful and affirming messages on a door propped up in the quad. A prior incident involved a racist note left on a student’s door, which led to a felony conviction for the perpetrator. A white pride organization also plastered flyers over posters announcing a diversity program in October.
Campus leaders have vowed to investigate and prosecute racist acts while promoting more discussion on race and building a safe and equitable campus. In October, the campus Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion hosted a seminar on race dynamics on today’s campuses.
“We remain committed to maintaining a safe, secure and inclusive campus environment for all students, faculty and staff,” the university statement read. It was co-signed by Chancellor Randy Pembrook, provost Denise Cobb, vice chancellors Rich Walker, Rachel Stack and Jeffrey Waple, and Venessa Brown, the associate chancellor for institutional diversity and inclusion.