A Webster University custodian found flyers containing racist and homophobic messages surrounding the door of an African-American student in the West Hall dormitory this morning. The university is reporting the incident under the Clery Act as a hate crime.
“The discovery of the flyers was made early in the morning, before the first classes of the day started. The flyers were approximately a dozen messages repeatedly copied on approximately a ream of paper. Some of the messages referenced the student’s ethnicity, while others had homophobic slurs,” a Webster statement read. “The custodian immediately gathered the flyers and reported them to the University’s Department of Housing and Residential Life. The University’s Dean of Students Office and Department of Public Safety have launched an investigation. If the investigation reveals that a student is responsible for the flyers, that student could face a judicial affairs hearing. Employees are reviewing guest logs and security cameras from the residential hall to see if any clues about the perpetrator turn up.”
The statement said the administration, Student Government Association and Multicultural Center were informed of the incident, as well as the student in question.
“The student did not see the flyers and said he did not know why someone would target him,” the statement said.
Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin clarified while some of the messages were racist and homophobic in nature, most referenced an apparent personal dispute with the student in question.
While Giblin declined to give the location of the incident or the identity of the student due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) concerns, a flyer posted in East Hall stated that the incident occurred in West Hall.
Both dorm buildings held meetings this evening informing residents of the event.
Residential staff members contacted by The Journal declined to comment further.
The Webster statement lists several initiatives launched on campus recently to promote diversity and inclusion, including a student planning committee developing diversity training, a faculty leadership group and the upcoming annual conference on diversity in higher education, scheduled for March 1-2. It also notes that students and staff can anonymously report incidents of hate and bias online.
“While progress has been made, it is inherently understood that the work is ongoing,” the statement said.
Update: Webster published a second press release on Dec. 5 providing updates on the university’s response.
“Since news of the flyers was made public, employees have reported seeing chalking around campus that has made reference to the incident,” the release said. “As a reminder, the University has a policy on flyers and chalking, including guidelines on where chalking is allowed. That policy can be found online at www.webster.edu/student-handbook/solicitation.html.”
According to Associate Director of Public Relations Jennifer Starkey, the chalk message was written outside the University Center on Dec. 4 and was “anti-racist”.
The release also says two separate student protests are planned for the upcoming week. One of those, organized by the Webster Student-Worker Alliance, will take place today at 1.