COLUMBIA — At first, when MU senior Terence Williams discovered a racial slur scrawled on the door of his dorm room Monday evening, he was angry but unsure of what he wanted to do.
“I wasn’t going to do anything at first, but it was too important for me not to,” said Williams, who is from St. Louis.
He doesn't usually look at the corkboard on his door at Hatch Residence Hall. For some reason, the racial epithet caught his eye: “K3 you suck! NIGGER,” written in capital letters. The K3 he took to be shorthand for the Ku Klux Klan.
Williams tried to take his mind off the matter. “I was riding in my car to try to calm down,” he said. “(First I felt) shock, and then that turned into anger and frustration.”
Williams sent text messages to his parents and two sisters about what happened. His father persuaded him to call the police.
Williams filed an official report with MU Police the same day. "When I went to the police I said I wanted to file a hate crime (report)."
Capt. Brian Weimer, public information officer for MU Police, confirmed the report as well as the content of the message found on Williams’ cork board. According to the MUPD Clery Report, the incident was harassment with a discrimination motive intended to frighten or disturb another person and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice show that there were four hate crimes reported based on race at MU in 2007. Statistics from 2008 are not yet available.
Officers so far have talked to 10 people who live at Hatch about the incident.
“Hopefully, someone saw something and we can get some information,” Weimer said.
When asked about the frequency of such incidents, Weimer said it would take some time to determine whether there had been any similar reports in the past year. He said he would have to go through each report of a harassing incident from 2008 to see if there were any similar incidents last year.
The Missourian has filed a Sunshine Law request to obtain statistics on the number of hate crimes on campus for the past three years.
“There is nothing that indicates a pattern,” he said “I can’t even remember one this semester.”
The incident investigation is still active.
Residential Life said it's doing its part to address the problem. "We work very closely with the police," said Kristen Temple, associate director of Residential Life.
"(First) the staff makes contact with the student (to see) what kind of support they want," Temple said. Support includes referral to "campus resources."
Next, the staff sees what kind of follow-up the student would like within the community. "We want to be responsive to their wishes," Temple said.
Follow up could include:
- A community meeting
- An individual conversation where either the student or community adviser talks one-on-one with dorm residents about the incident
- If the person responsible can be identified, the "conduct" — or disciplinary — process begins.
The situation is important to everyone involved, Temple said. "We take it pretty seriously."
Williams is taking the incident in stride, and his attitude about the dorm hasn't changed much — except for the acknowledgment that there are "a few foolish people" in the world. "I don't have time for this," he said. "I'm trying to graduate."