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Frustration continues after hate crime

Beloit College students’ frustrations with the administration persist amidst the aftermath of the hate crime that was reported to the campus community two Mondays ago. Meanwhile, few substantial leads regarding the investigation into the racist graffiti have been made public as of Sunday, April 15.

In a Black Students United meeting held in Moore Lounge on Wednesday, April 11, a number of students expressed their fear and anger over what many agreed was an inadequate response to the hate crime from the college’s administration. Beloit College President Scott Bierman, Provost and Dean of the College Ann Davies, and Dean of Students Christina Klawitter were present to discuss a newly developed set of response protocols for hate acts and hate crimes on campus in collaboration with United Front, a new organization that joins the forces of BSU and Students for an Inclusive Campus. 

Tess Lydon/Round Tab

President Bierman broke down the draft of the protocol, which lays out detailed response, communication, support and investigation procedures that administration says it will follow for all future reports of hate acts and hate crimes at Beloit College. The protocol can be viewed in full on the Policies and Handbooks page of the school’s website; it was officially enacted at the end of the meeting.

During open discussion of the new protocol, many students in attendance stressed that they were still not satisfied with accountability at the institutional level. A primary source of frustration was the fact that Beloit College professors are not currently required to discuss hate acts and hate crimes in their classes, and that response training is not mandatory for faculty members. Some students asked whether professors who were reported for racism in their classes would be held accountable; others reported specific incidents in which they had felt directly marginalized in the classroom, although none mentioned specific professors by name.

When Davies responded by explaining how highly Beloit College values tenure, a cry went up in the room. “Either we don’t have effective professors, or our feelings are not being valued and taken into account,” one student said. Another likened regular anti-racism checks for professors to regular eye exams for driver’s license holders.

Those in attendance, some of whom were in tears, continued to express their fear for them

Tess Lydon/Round Table

selves and their peers. Many said that they did not feel safe on campus and that they were losing trust in the administration.

Students at the meeting also said that they did not feel sure that Bierman, Davies and Klawitter would keep the promises that they were making. “I can commit to a diet, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it,” one student joked.

Another said of the administration’s slow response, and of the fact that the campus community has grown used to hate crimes, “it’s a cycle – every year you give your word [and it isn’t kept].” The student continued, “I just want the cycle to be broken.”

This dissatisfaction manifested elsewhere on campus throughout the week. On Tuesday morning, many students complained on social media of difficulty registering for classes through the college’s online database, the Portal. Shortly afterward, a poster that read “what if lack of administrative support for black students made u as mad as the Portal crashing?” appeared on a wall on the first floor of Pearsons Hall. The poster was signed “[brought to you by]: a student,” and also read “[takedown date]: When more white people give a fuck.” The poster was no longer on the wall as of April 15.

Later in the week, printouts of the salaries and other compensations for prominent members of the administration, including Bierman and Davies, also appeared in Pearsons Hall. President Bierman’s compensation – a total of $527,301 per year – was highlighted on each copy. The papers read “hold them accountable,” as well as “[brought to you by]: a concerned student,” and “takedown date: when Scott steps down (or takes a paycut).” Those printouts can still be seen as of the 15th.

Early on Thursday afternoon, the campus community received an email from the office of Christina Klawitter detailing how, on the previous evening, a campus Security officer had spotted two white males who appeared to be in their 30s walking near the north side of the Art Annex, where the original graffiti had been discovered. The officer believed that the two individuals were acting suspiciously and followed them until they drove away; the officer was able to record their vehicle’s license plate number.

“While investigating the area around the Art Annex, the officer spotted three other males who also fled off campus upon seeing the officer approaching,” the email continued. “When Security returned to the Art Annex, they found that someone had spray painted a trapezoid on the wall with gold spray paint.” The message said that all information regarding the incident had been reported to the City of Beloit Police Department as well as to the FBI. It appeared that the events related in the email had occurred before Wednesday night’s meeting.

In a follow-up email on Friday morning, Klawitter explained that a student had informed the administration that the gold trapezoid had been spray painted on the wall as part of “a planned student activity.” In addition, the FBI had spoken to the owner of the vehicle that had been observed by Security on Wednesday evening. The individual who was questioned was able to show proof that he had been playing Pokemon Go on his cell phone, and said that he did not know the other three men who had fled on the same evening.

This most recent email promised that another update would be provided to the campus community on Monday, April 16.

The Round Table learned late on Sunday evening that members of Voodoo Barbie, the Beloit College improv comedy group, used their performance time at the April 15 Admitted Students Open House to inform prospective students about the hate crime and its aftermath, and that the demonstration was planned in collaboration with BSU.

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