University of Maryland President Clayton Daniel “Dan” Mote Jr. said this week he was sickened by racial threats scrawled on the dorm-room doors of two African-American students and pledged to find the culprits.
The two freshmen in Elkton hall on the College Park campus awoke early Thursday to find the word “kill” and racial epithets written on their door message boards, said university spokesman George Cathcart.
“Frankly, this incident sickens me,” Mote wrote in an e-mail Monday night to faculty and staff. “We will not allow members of our family to be driven away by such tactics.”
Mote personally assured the two students, who were badly shaken by the incident, that he abhors such actions and that the university will make all attempts to find those responsible, Cathcart said.
He added those found guilty of the action face campus sanctions up to expulsion.
University police have been questioning students on the eighth floor of Elkton where the incident occurred but do not have a suspect, said Sgt. Steven Kowa, spokesman for University Police.
The culprit wrote the message between 1:30 and 6 a.m. Thursday – during the first week of classes – and is probably a student, Cathcart said.
The incident does not qualify as a hate crime under Maryland law because there was no property damage and the messages did not give a specific threat to students’ welfare, Kowa said. The message was easily wiped from an erasable board, he said.
Eleven other incidents involving written hateful messages have occurred on the College Park campus since January, campus police said.
African Americans make up 14.5 percent of the 24,454 undergraduate students on campus, according to fall 1997 figures. 1998 figures were not yet available.
Black Student Union President Danielle Gittens said this event and the others “remind us that racism still occurs.”
University sophomore Nicole Pearson, who lives on Elkton’s eighth floor, said she hadn’t “heard of anything like this happening before.” But, she said, “I am glad to see it’s getting so much attention.”
Pearson said fliers describing the incident were sent to students in her dorm and that her floor is having a meeting Tuesday night to discuss what happened. The message, one of Mote’s first as university president, comes as he tries to build rapport with students and staff. The former University of California-Berkeley vice chancellor joined the campus this summer as president, after William E. Kirwan left for Ohio State University. -30-