UP looks into hate incident

Police are investigating a possible hate crime where a racial message with the “n-word” was reportedly left on a marker board in Norse Hall Aug. 26.

Tearmirra Williams-Talley found the “n-word” left on the marker board outside her dorm

She said she erased the message because she was going to ignore it, but later changed her mind and called the police.

Harold Todd, director of the Department of Public Safety and chief of the University Police, did confirm the presence of the “n-word.”

“If the ‘n-word’ wasn’t in the message, there wouldn’t have been any problems,” Todd said. “There were no threats, nothing made the girl uncomfortable.”

Todd said that if it weren’t for that one word, there wouldn’t have been anything wrong with the note. “It appeared they used it in a casual manner,” he said.

According to an e-mail from Peter Trentacoste, interim director of University Housing, there will be a diversity program called “Watch Yo Mouth” at 9:15 p.m. Sept. 13 in Norse Commons room 117 in response to the incident. The program’s goals are to educate students about the history of derogatory words and discuss the implications of using such words.

Trentacoste said in the e-mail that he hopes “students and our university can learn from this incident that there are certain words that can inflame or offend by their mere appearance or utterance and those words have no place in our everyday language.”

Cynthia Pinchback-Hines, the associate dean of African American Student Affairs and Ethnic Services, said, “It is unfortunate when people resort to using that type of language. I feel really sorry for the student.” She acknowledged that even though the word is demeaning, it is commonly used among blacks.

Police are still questioning Williams-Talley. Todd said that the pleasant nature of the note, it may not have been meant as a racial slur, but it is still being investigated as a hate crime.

Pinchback-Hines said any time something is labeled as a hate crime, it is one time too many.

“It needs to be recognized as an opportunity for education,” she said.

Pinchback-Hines said she thinks it is important to listen to the victim and watch how the university reacts.