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‘Rash’ of racial incidents bring nearly 1,000 to MSU lecture hall

Nearly 1,000 Michigan State University students, administrators and community members packed into a large lecture hall at Conrad Hall on the campus to discuss what administration officials have called a “rash” of racial incidents on the campus.

In the last three weeks, at least two incidents of racist graffiti have occurred in two different dorms. In one instance, the racist message was written on the dorm room dry erase board of a black student. In the other, racist graffiti using the same racial epithet as well as sexually explicit graphics, was found on several walls in another residence hall. A third incident came to light on Tuesday. Students say when they went to a lab on campus, they found a black rag doll hanged by a makeshift noose.

Kent Cassella, spokesperson for MSU, said the MSU police continue to investigate them both as individual incidents as well as potentially as a series of events that are related. He said MSU has not called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation as of Tuesday night as the police department was waiting for preliminary investigatory reports to be completed.

Acting Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Denise Maybanks said that, to her knowledge, the university had initiated its bias incident response plan, but was not able to verify that Tuesday night.

Students from the university’s Black Student Alliance organized the event on Tuesday evening to discuss with the community how to respond to the situations. There was some discussion about marching to protest what was going on, but no final decision was made at the meeting. Organizers told students they would email them regarding the next steps by Friday.

“We wanted to bring it to the forefront, see how the community feels about it and what they want to do about it,” said Dedrick Cotton, the Black Student Alliance special events coordinator.

“Those are the tip of the iceberg. This is not the first time that we’ve seen or heard anything like this, but as blatant and as frequent as it has been in the past couple of years, this was about as quick as it happen in a school year,” Cotton said.

This is not the first time MSU has made headlines for alleged racial activity on the campus. Over the past decade a couple of student groups have invited controversial and some say racist speakers to the campus. In the most recent incident, MSU Sons of Liberty invited Nick Griffin, the head of the openly racist British National Party, to the campus to speak. Griffin withdrew from the event when his invitation to speak at another event in Washington D.C. was cancelled.

James Gill, vice president of the state NAACP, was at the Conrad community meeting as well.

“We’re always concerned when there are racial issues that come out,” said Gill, who is a detective with the Lansing Police Department. “We know that there are racist people in the world. We just want to know who they are so we can take care of it from there.”

Gill says that the incidents, while shocking, are not necessarily surprising given the recent history at MSU, as well as political fights in Washington D.C.

“When people in the U.S. Congress, in the U.S. Senate act like that to the President of the United States, then other people think it’s open day. We can go ahead and do that and nothing’s gonna happen to us,” said Gill. “So it’s totally wrong. Yes, I think it does stem from what those people are doing in Washington D.C.”

Cotton was not quite as certain as Gill, but said he was willing to give the university the benefit of the doubt in dealing with the incidents — though he says the administration has not responded adequately to the situation thus far.

“I wouldn’t say that we’re feeling threatened as of now,” Cotton said. “We don’t feel everything has been up to par, or taken as seriously as we think it should have been taken.”

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