Racial slur still under investigation

Christina Stavale

Pan-African Studies instructor Traci Williams was not surprised when she learned the “n-word” was painted on a university sign.

Once a Kent State student and a former president of Black United Students, she said she was called the “n-word” for the first time on this campus. And with the recent incidents in Jena, La., and at Delaware State, she said there is little to say.

“I’m not surprised, but I’m still saddened at the same time.”

The incident occurred over the weekend on West Campus Center Drive near the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, and it is currently being investigated by the Kent State Police Department. A maintenance worker saw the vandalized sign Saturday morning; it was immediately covered and then removed.

Lt. Carl Sweigert of the Kent State Police Department said painting a sign is considered criminal mischief. It may step into the realm of hate crimes, which he said will be pursued according to state standards.

Sweigert said he hopes to complete the investigation by the middle of next week. While he couldn’t give out any information about the investigation at the time, he said the main problem they have run into, so far, is determining how long the sign had been painted before anybody noticed.

The way the maintenance staff approaches the removal process was standard, said Michael McDonald, director of Campus Environment and Operations. When someone commits an offensive act of vandalism, the university covers the sign before removing it to give police time to investigate. While acts of vandalism on campus are plentiful, he said few are racially motivated.

“From my time here, very, very few have any kind of statement geared toward ethnicity or hate,” said McDonald, who has worked with the university for about 30 years. “It’s very rare, but it’s very disturbing.”

A student who also saw the sign Saturday morning alerted the administration, and inquired what would happen if someone were caught doing this.

Pete Goldsmith, vice president for enrollment, management and student affairs, said this kind of action is punishable by both the university and law. Expulsion from the university, he said, would depend upon the circumstances.

Some students expressed concern about their own safety on campus in light of this incident. Sweigert said while the police department cannot take any specific action unless they have a suspect, students can always call.

“If someone is in an uncomfortable situation, they can come to the police,” he said.

Sweigert encouraged anyone who saw the sign before or during Saturday morning, or anybody who knows anything about the incident, to contact the Kent State Police Department.

Williams said she believes this and similar incidents could be prevented by requiring students to take at least one course in the Department of Pan-African Studies.

“It would help people to understand that a lot of things we see in the media of African Americans is a made up image,” she said. “People never see the real community, the black family in a positive light.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].