UPDATE: Hate-crime suspect told police he was drunk during incident

Monday, February 14, 2011 | 6:35 p.m. CST; updated 7:39 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — The MU student arrested in connection with racist graffiti outside a campus dormitory told a police officer he was drunk at the time and didn't remember what he did.

In a probable cause statement, MU Police Sgt. Shawn Spalding wrote that the suspect, Benjamin Elliott, was seen by surveillance cameras spray-painting both the sidewalk and sculpture. 

After checking Elliott's key card to determine when he entered his residence at Hatch Hall, the freshman was identified as the suspect by a Hatch Hall coordinator, according to the statement. 

The probable cause statement reported that Elliott was alone during the time of the vandalism. He was arrested on suspicion of second-degree property damage, according to an MU Police news release. According to section 557.035 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, the penalties of a crime may be enhanced if it is found to be motivated by race. 

The Legion of Black Collegians, MU's black student government, will discuss the racist graffiti on Wednesday during its Senate meeting. The group has invited presidents from various campus organizations to brainstorm ideas to help bring more diversity to MU's campus, Vice President Cidney King said.

MU Assistant Deputy Chancellor for Diversity Roger Worthington may be in attendance, Lisa White, president of the Legion of Black Collegians, said.

In reaction to an incident last year in which two MU students scattered cotton balls outside the Black Culture Center, the Legion of Black Collegians held a town hall meeting where some students advocated for adding a diversity class to graduation requirements. 

White said her organization would like an update on efforts the campus has made to add such a class. The meeting on Wednesday will not be open to the public, but discussion from the meeting will be posted at 

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Michael Williams February 14, 2011 | 7:03 p.m.

Yeah, I certainly remember being that age and drinking.

And, of course, it was always an accepted part of the ensemble to carry a spray paint can along for the evening (sarcasm).

Drunk and can't remember? Give me a break. Please explain WHY you went out drinking WITH a can of spray paint in the first place. Did you intend to sniff the stuff, or do you balance it on your nose to impress the ladies?

(Report Comment)
Walter Lane February 14, 2011 | 11:10 p.m.

I know plenty of people who have gotten drunk and have done stupid things, but none of those things would have gotten them arrested. The "oh I was drunk" excuse is played out and is not an excuse. Period.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 14, 2011 | 11:31 p.m.

Hopefully, we aren't looking at the start of an annual celebration (February 2010, February 2011). Also, there seems to be some deterioration in 2011: at least the cotton balls showed a small degree of originality.

"An idle mind is the Devil's workshop." (So, in all probability, is an empty mind.)

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken February 15, 2011 | 12:02 a.m.

"the Legion of Black Collegians held a town hall meeting where some students advocated for adding a diversity class to graduation requirements."

You have got to be kidding me.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 15, 2011 | 7:02 a.m.

@ Amber Hanneken:

I agree with you. I seriously doubt whether such a requirement, if imposed, would stand up in court.

What there needs to be is a SYSTEM-WIDE rule that anyone caught perpetrating these sorts of outrages faces automatic expulsion without any opportunity for reinstatement at any of the four UM System campuses. Punish the perpetrators, not everyone else.

Why System-wide? Because some things should be dealt with on the basis of the entire university, not on a campus-by-campus basis. Because we've seen two of these situations in less than a year at MU doesn't mean they couldn't occur at UMKC, UMSL or MS&T*. Besides, MU only has about 45% of the System's students, less than half.

*- Both historically and currently our students are capable of mischief. We try to keep them so loaded down with homework that they don't have much time to think about it.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 15, 2011 | 7:18 a.m.

@ Comment:
"What there needs to be is a SYSTEM-WIDE rule that anyone caught perpetrating these sorts of outrages faces automatic expulsion without any opportunity for reinstatement at any of the four UM System campuses. Punish the perpetrators, not everyone else."

My response:
I agree 100% After the authorities have arrested them and released them back onto the street, school just send them home - permanently. Block campus to them for lifetime, and consider it a trespassing crime if they ever try to get near any of the system facilities/student/staff ever again. Let it be said: "If you abuse it, you lose it."

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush February 15, 2011 | 7:39 a.m.

A diversity class is not a punishment.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken February 15, 2011 | 7:55 a.m.

@Gregg yes it is. This is a college, not a summer camp. For every nonsense class you force students to take that's one less course they can take toward furthering their career. It's harder than ever to get a job after college, we should be requiring more job-focused courses in college not more fluff. The vast majority of students don't need a diversity class (whatever that even means), and the ones that do aren't going to take anything away from it. You don't change someone's mind in a class like that, as much as you'd love to think so.

(Report Comment)
Michael Schoelz February 15, 2011 | 10:35 a.m.


I suggest you get a refund from MU cause you are clearly missing the point of college. College is for education; it is not a job factory. You are going there to learn how to think. I happen to agree that a diversity requirement would run counter to its goals as you do, but only because I think all gen-ed requirements box in students more than provide them with any useful skill. Depending on how that class is taught, I bet that it could change a lot of minds. Don't be such a complainer.

(Report Comment)
Michael Schoelz February 15, 2011 | 10:42 a.m.

Also, @Delcia,

Geez, what an overreaction. What the guy did was inexcusable, but not permanent. He's immature, not a sociopath. What he needs is several years of growth and what better place for him to do that than in Columbia. I ain't sayin MU is perfect in making kids grow up, but I will say that he chose it and wants to be here and must learn to adjust his behavior there in order to fit in with the rest of the student body. Who knows, maybe he learned his lesson, or maybe he will after he becomes the object of some ill-will himself. But if he leaves, than he gives up, and MU gives up and we have another failed individual on our hands that is just angry and causing problems.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Chandler February 15, 2011 | 11:43 a.m.

Ignorance, The diversity class has been talked about for about 10 years. LBC just pushed for the administration to actually follow up on what they were saying!

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 15, 2011 | 12:04 p.m.

He can grow up elsewhere, just as well as he could have grown up at MU. He blew his chance when he decided to disfigure the campus with his disfigurement words scrawled across property belonging to the University he attended. Even if he has scrawled "Jesus saves," it still would have been disfigurement of property. MU is not a savior of lost souls, but a school to benefit educational purposes in the academic endeavor. MU also has the right/responsibility to keep its property and its students safe from vandalism/vandals. When he gets the message that one does not disfigure property on a whim, then he will truly be responsible enough to accept the consequences of his actions of being permanently disbarred from the system, and he might have grown up enough to qualify for acceptance into the academia of higher learning at some future time - and that should never be back at the property he marred with his actions so lightly taken. "I was drunk," is no defense. There is no excuse for what he did, let alone a reason. Being accepted into a major university such as MU is not an automatic entitlement - but bears with it certain responsibilities. He should have known better, and now he learns the hard way. MU does not owe him an entitlement to continue at MU or to be part of the system anywhere.

(Report Comment)
David Sautner February 15, 2011 | 12:17 p.m.

Have him hanged, quartered, flayed, and spit. That's what they did to recalcitrant slaves in the olden days. The English were the originators of the N-word. They referred to Indians (India Indians), while conqureing India and especially its cotton industry, as n-----s. They were the first to invent the word. And hanging, quartering, flaying, and spitting was the common punishment by the Europeans to people they considered slaves and what not. It should be a public event open to all. Not only would it be an effective punishment both for its pain and terror to any would be racial vandalists, it would make an intersting History lesson as well...

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken February 15, 2011 | 8:24 p.m.

@Michael Way to contradict yourself. You say, "College is for education; it is not a job factory." Then you say, "I think all gen-ed requirements box in students more than provide them with any useful skill."

Totally agreed on your second point. What are education and skills used for in this life? Oh yeah, getting a career! Do you really think the majority of people would go to college for the sake of an education and that's it? Is that what you went for? It must be nice to come from a rich family who can throw money away for the sake of it then. (I'm assuming you've actually graduated, of course. If you haven't then hoo boy you have a lot in store.)

(Report Comment)
frank christian February 15, 2011 | 9:51 p.m.

David Sautner - You present the opportunity for me to vent my opinion in this matter.

The English also originated the word "Yankee" and meant it to be every bit as offensive as the N--(It is history but we can't say it, or write it). It didn't work for English, because Yankees laughed at them, wrote a song, and threw it back at them.

Big difference between colonist "yankees" and black slaves, but if after freed, our black population could have taken up the word that liberals have banned from our speech and been proud of it as their heritage, I'm sure racial prejudice would be far less a problem. Irish, Italians etc. had onerous names attached to them and overcame them.

If you will note,so has a majority of our black people. Dick Gregory stated publicly that black people use the N- far more than any whites. If they were allowed, however, put their past aside and take their place, equally, among the rest of we Americans, it would bode ill for liberal democrats. And,there you have it.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 16, 2011 | 7:35 p.m.

The liberal democrats want to stop you from using the N word in order to keep people down so that they can destroy them because they hate their freedom.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 16, 2011 | 7:48 p.m.

Amber Hanneken says...

"@Gregg yes it is. This is a college, not a summer camp. For every nonsense class you force students to take that's one less course they can take toward furthering their career."

The above paragraph does not appear to be written by someone thinking at what I would like to consider to be "college level". The word "university" is from the same root at the word "universal". The universality of education is the reason that a large amount of courses required for most majors have precious little to do with the subject of the degree. Most of the courses that are listed would likely be considered "social studies" at a more general level. I believe that social studies is vital to a university and particularly to one that has an international community. In the past more graduates had mastered some level of proficiency in a foreign language than today and this is a decline that should be reversed. You seem to be great material for a technical school. Consider your possibilities.

(Report Comment)

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