Racial Incidents at 3 Campuses

Minority students report heightened tensions at St. Olaf, American and Baylor.

May 1, 2017
Protest at St. Olaf

Three campuses are experiencing heightened racial tensions following recent incidents:

Sit-In at St. Olaf

Hundreds of students at St. Olaf College held a sit-in Saturday afternoon and through the night in the student center to protest recent racial incidents on the campus. The immediate spur for the incident was a note left on the car of a black woman, making racist threats and saying it would be a good thing if she left the campus. Students said the incident was but the latest in a series targeting minority students with anonymous, racist notes.

The college issued a statement that condemned the recent incident and said the college was investigating it, as it has the other incidents this year.

"These acts are despicable," the college statement says. "They violate every value we hold as a community, and they have absolutely no place at St. Olaf.

When the first report arose last October, the college notified the campus of the incident and launched an immediate investigation. "We are sparing no effort and are using every tool at our disposal to catch the perpetrators of these hate-filled acts," the statement said. "St. Olaf has notified Northfield Police, and we are working with law enforcement. Each time a racist act has been perpetrated, the college has continued notifying the campus."

Students have continued to hold protests since the initial sit-in.

Bananas Again Source of Tension at American

Bananas have again become a source of racial tension at American University. In the fall, black students protested over incidents in which they said one had a banana thrown at her and another found a rotten banana left outside her dormitory room. On Monday, officials discovered three bananas hanging from noose-like strings, with the letters "AKA" written on them, an apparent reference to Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest historically black sorority in the country. An AKA member recently became the head of American's student government.

Neil Kirwan, president of the university, issued a statement Monday that said in part, "The crude and racially insensitive act of bigotry reported this morning is under investigation by AU Campus Police with assistance from the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and other AU offices and senior officials. We strongly condemn what happened [and] will do all that we can to find those responsible."

Mexican Stereotypes at Baylor Party

Baylor University suspended a fraternity Monday over a party it held Saturday that embraced many stereotypes of Mexicans. The Waco Tribune reported that students wore sombreros, some were in painted brown faces dressed as construction workers and others chanted "build the wall," in reference to President Trump's pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border. Hundreds of Baylor students held a protest of the incident Monday.

Kevin P. Jackson, vice president for student life at Baylor, issued this statement Sunday, as word of the party spread: "The university has been made aware of a racially insensitive event that occurred last night off campus. The reported behavior is deeply concerning and does not in any way reflect Baylor’s institutional values. University officials are presently investigating the incident and gathering additional information. Baylor is committed to a Christian mission that actively supports a caring and diverse campus community, and we do not tolerate racism of any kind on our campus. When any incident that does not align with our faith and mission is brought to our attention, it is thoroughly investigated by the university, and appropriate action is taken."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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