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Community responds to potential hate act on campus

Additional reporting from Clare Eigenbrode. 

On Thursday, Oct. 24, at 10:53pm, the Beloit College campus community received an email from Bruce Heine, Director of Safety & Security, regarding the investigation of a reported “race related hate act” in the dining room of the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) Fraternity House. According to the email, members of TKE found  “a brown doll hanging from the ceiling by its neck.” However, on the morning of Friday, Oct. 25, a follow-up email was sent to the campus community by Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood clarifying that the doll had been attached to the wall by its clothing and “had likely been attached in this way for some time.” Security is no longer investigating this incident as a hate act. 

The first email to the campus community stated that Beloit Police were investigating the potential hate act, but Heine told the Round Table that Beloit Police are no longer working with the college because it is no longer seen as an intentional act. “We know it wasn’t intentional,” Heine said, “because [some] residents of the house knew the doll was there. What the purpose of it was I don’t know, but [some] knew it was there in the past, and some of the members obviously didn’t know, and they’re the ones that saw it and thought it could be a hate-related issue, and so they contacted us.” The doll, which Heine described as “similar but not exactly” like a Barbie doll, “was never intended to be a hate act,” according to Beloit Security. 

“With the information we had [Thursday night],” Heine continued, “we thought it could be a hate-related incident, so we acted like it was just to be safe.” Heine clarified that no crime was reported by the Beloit Police Department, and that “our biggest concern is how people feel and how it made people feel. Obviously, a hate crime is rather concerning and it is certainly something we don’t advocate having on our campus.” 

A little over an hour after the initial email was sent out by Bruce Heine, the Beloit campus received an email statement from President Scott Bierman and Youngblood that denounced hate and “condemn[ed] this act in the strongest terms.” In the follow-up email, Youngblood stated “we remain committed to following the protocol developed in partnership [with] members of our student body. Based on protocol, Campus Security works under the assumption that reported incidents constitute a hate act and are pursued as such.” Youngblood continued that “the impact on students must be addressed.” 

On Friday afternoon, an official statement from TKE was posted to the Beloit College Student Group on Facebook, which stated that while the fraternity is “still trying to figure out the details about the event,” they are “getting help from the school” and “stand against racism and do not condone any acts of racism.” In an email to the Round Table, TKE’s Pylortes, or head of security, Patrick Azar’20 declined to comment “given how recent the incident occurred.” Azar further wrote that “at the moment we are prioritizing the safety and well-being of our affected members.” However, another member of TKE posted on the student Facebook page referring to the hanging of the doll as a “cowardly act of a hate crime.” The student did not respond to the Round Table’s request for comment. 

The initial report of a possible hate act activated the college’s Hate and Bias Act Protocol, which can be found on the Beloit College website. The policy dictates that responders to a hate act “will convene a response team that may include the dean of students, the provost, the president’s chief of staff, and the director of communications […]  this response team will determine the appropriate pathway for addressing the hate crime or act” which “may include community emails.” A hate act, as defined by the policy, has “the purpose or reasonably foreseeable effect of harassing, dehumanizing, or intimidating those persons or groups.” 

Heine stated that “in order [for an incident] to be referred to as a hate crime, a crime has to have taken place, or someone has been threatened or targeted, and the police did not feel this met the standard of a hate crime.” As such, it was described as a hate act in the first emails to the campus community. 

On Friday night Black Students United (BSU) held a meeting for its members, and on Wednesday, Oct. 27 it will hold an emergency meeting, according to BSU President Aryssa Harris. Harris told the Round Table that BSU is “looking for more of the details because everything that has been sent out has been kind of vague, and we have reached out to Cecil [Youngblood] so that even if it can’t be released to our campus community our members have clarity.” No response event has been planned by BSU as of press time. “We want to get on the same page and hear from our members about what they want to do,” Harris said. 

Students for an Inclusive Campus (SIC) acknowledged the report in an email to its members shortly after Heine’s email reached the campus community. “During this destabilizing time, it is important to rely on and build community in order to create a sense of security and ownership of our campus,” the organization wrote. “SIC is able to provide our labor and support, as well as a space to talk about where to go from here.”

This news of a potential hate act on the Beloit College campus comes following the last reported hate crime at Beloit in April 2018, when graffitti targeting black students by using racial slurs and evoking the Ku Klux Klan was found on the Art Annex. The lack of timely administrative response and vague details provided to the community following the initial report led to a series of emergency meetings and a town hall hosted by BSU. Following the outrage from the campus community, Bierman and administration promised an improvement to the Hate and Bias Incident Policy in place at the time, which was revised and enacted on April 11, 2018.

SIC’s email outlined the response that its executive board hoped to see from the Beloit administration following any report of a hate act on campus, including swift compliance with the new bias incident policy. “SIC plans to hold the people in power accountable,” it continued.

Gabe Gonzalez’20, the chairperson of SIC, told the Round Table in an email on Oct. 27 that in spite of the school’s revised Bias Incident Policy, he’s observed that mistrust remains among some members of the student body given previous responses to confirmed hate acts on campus. Gonzalez said he felt that Youngblood’s email was dismissive, and expressed frustration with a lack of follow-up emails since Friday morning.

“It was confusing to say the least,” he said, and “the community seems to be as confused as we [SIC] are.” Gonzalez does not agree with the Beloit Police Department’s decision to no longer investigate the report as a hate act. “There seems to be a sense of banding together,” he wrote, “and an understanding that no matter what the admin has come to say this was still a violent act of hate.”

Harris said the Thursday night response email sent out by Bierman and Youngblood “was written well […] I felt the email was supportive,” despite lingering questions. “I think [this response] was a lot more prompt,” Harris said, comparing this response to the 2018 hate crime report. “They did their job better. They didn’t wait to do something. They handled it properly. Even if they downgraded it, in the end they definitely took those initial steps to make sure people feel safe.” 

Harris said that to support students of color, the campus “should try and support students of color all the time, not just when a hate act or hate crime happens. Speak up if you see an injustice, and if you’re not comfortable speaking up, don’t come to a black space. People want to come to our parties and enact that culture but not speak up when they hear the ‘n’ word. Check your friends and your teammates […] be willing to educate yourself and don’t expect people of color to educate you. Try and figure out the information for yourself. Check on your friends of color and if you don’t feel comfortable doing that then maybe re-analyze your friendship.”

Harris also told the Round Table that BSU had been sent an email by SIC and “said that [SIC] is opening up their weekly general meeting to BSU members and students of color if they want to come talk.” Although no intentional hate act took place, Harris said “the impact that [the incident] has is still massive and the efforts we had to take to make sure everyone is okay and people of color are okay was overwhelming, and we have invested emotion into it, and you can’t just act like it didn’t happen.” 

Residential Life and counseling services in the Health and Wellness Center are available for students in need.

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