EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — After a series of racial incidents on Michigan State University’s campus, students came together to talk about how MSU should move forward.
The incidents included toilet paper that some thought was shaped like a noose, which was taped to a dorm room door, and a recent survey administered by an associate professor in the College of Communications Arts and Sciences, which contained vulgar and racist questions.
The discussion was hosted by MSU Black Students’ Alliance and the Associated Students of Michigan State University.
6 News was not allowed to film the meeting, as organizers wanted to ensure students felt safe sharing their thoughts. But some said after the meeting that, until the university’s administration accepts there is a problem, they will not be able to solve it.
“They have to face reality. MSU has a reality problem,” Jimiela Weatherly, a sophomore at MSU said.
In the case of the toilet paper incident, the university responded the act saying after initial discussions, other students came forward saying they taped up the toilet paper, and it was all meant to just be a Halloween prank and not resemble a noose.
The school added: “It is important to remember that actions and words meant to hurt someone based on their identity have no place in our community.”
But Antanae Love-Humble, who lives in the hall, says she was frightened by the incident.
“It’s really scary to know that at my school, where I’m paying to be here, paying to live, paying to take classes, paying to get a degree, I’m not safe,” she said. “I’m not, because if somebody can hang a noose on the door, they can come in and hurt me.”
Some students are calling for an apology from the university, and an acknowledgement that there is a problem.
“Rather than dismissing them, calling them a Halloween prank or anything like that, this was a racially insensitive situation, and I want to hear that,” Keilyn Broussard, the Vice President of MSU Black Students’ Alliance said.
Weatherly called for more intercultural training.
“We all come from different places,” she said. “So how can you bring us all together and just throw us in a bowl and expect us to mix? That’s not how it happens, and that’s what they’re doing here.”
Weatherly added she and others are fed up with the incidents, as well as what they see as inaction by the university.
“We are furious,” she said. “And unless they make a change, me personally, unless they make a change, if I see another noose on a door, I don’t think that I’ll be staying here. Because it’s not right.”
In addition to the toilet paper and survey incidents, Hillel, a center for Jewish students at MSU, was vandalized. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials were also on campus for a class presentation, leaving others offended.
MSU President Samuel Stanley sent the following letter to the MSU community in the wake of those issues:
Our community has been affected in the past several days by incidents causing concern and anger.
I, too, am concerned, because a safe, inclusive and respectful campus is my top priority. Hate has no home at Michigan State. We want every individual to feel welcomed, valued and heard.
Recently the greater campus community has experienced vandalism at MSU Hillel, our center for Jewish student life; the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on campus last week for a presentation to a class; an instance of racial bias reported from Bryan Hall over the weekend; and a survey in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences that offended students.
Some of these actions may not have grown from negative intent or malice, but it’s important for us all to remember the difference between intent and impact. Regardless of intent, there is still an impact being felt across campus.
These situations have disrupted a sense of safety that should exist for everyone. Building inclusive communities is at the core of our values, and the impact of recent events cannot be underestimated.
I want to personally let you know the concerns of our campus community are being taken seriously. Investigations by both the MSU Police Department and our Office of Institutional Equity are taking place, and we are providing support to those who are affected. We will be responsive to these issues and will not ignore the effect they are having on our community. It is important to hold ourselves accountable for being respectful, culturally sensitive and informed.
Any member of the MSU community found responsible for a bias incident will face disciplinary action in accordance with university policies.
Tonight, the Black Student Alliance is hosting a community forum in collaboration with the Associated Students of MSU to discuss some of these issues and their impact. Having a forum for discussion and listening is important if we want to create change.
In the coming months, I will continue to work with students and others in the campus community as we undergo a strategic planning process, including an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. Your feedback will be critical to this plan moving forward.
I want all Spartans to reach their full potential, educationally and professionally. That starts with an inclusive, safe environment here at MSU. We all have purpose in being here, and we need to engage one another with dignity and respect.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.
President”Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Michigan State University President