Chants echoed throughout Florida Gulf Coast University as students and faculty demonstrated around campus after an image with a racial slur surfaced but was not addressed until two weeks after the incident.
“The problem is not just that somebody said something that was racist,” Daniel Stallings, an advisor at FGCU said. “The school didn’t deal with it in a time appropriate manner and just shrugged it under the rug instead of dealing with it and letting us know something so threatening was happening on our campus.”
The words "Kill (N-word)" were written on a dry-erase board with a drawing of a stick figure hanging from a tree.
University Police determined the drawing was not considered a hate crime or vandalism so a criminal investigation was not conducted.
The image was erased but the person who drew it has not be identified.
Students like Shaneeka Supal tell Four In Your Corner the university has swept this under the rug. “What was critical was the University’s response,” Supal said. “They waited far too late, two weeks too late.”
The incident was reported on October 12th, but President Wilson Bradshaw did not made it public or address the matter until October 27th, where he called the drawing a “disturbing occurrence”.
Students like Imani Hilton say all threats should be taken seriously. “The person who drew this said ‘kill’, not just hurt,” Imani Hilton said. “That’s scary.”
Dozens of students held signs expressing their disappointment with the University’s Board of Trustees for their lack of transparency and prompt communication.
The students who organized the peaceful protest presented a three page letter demanding the board to take 10 actions to address the issue, prevent future issues from happening, and creating a safe culture for students of all ethnicities and races.
Since the protest, President Bradshaw has emailed the University the following statement:
Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni and Friends,
Today our students voiced their concerns over the racial slur and drawing that appeared on a whiteboard in an academic building on campus. I could not be prouder of our students’ passionate yet peaceful message that clearly demonstrated their appropriate outrage, fear, and, frankly, disappointment in not knowing about the incident when it occurred.
After the incident, our University Police Department increased its patrols, and officers have been on alert to identify any other such incidents. Fortunately, no others have occurred. I want you to know that at the time I made the best decision I could with the information I had. There was no cover-up. However, in retrospect, given the understandable emotional reaction of our community, my decision in this matter would have been different.
Please know that we hear you, and we will work with you to do all we can together to make everyone who studies, works, and visits here feel safe, respected and valued. We have received the list of demands put forward today by a group of student organizations, and we will be responsive, including engaging students as we move forward with a renewed focus on a culture of acceptance and understanding in our University community.
Today’s peaceful expressions should be the start of this engaged dialogue and action across the campus. Your President, Office of Student Affairs, and University Police Department take this very seriously, as we have from the start. As an African American growing up in a segregated Florida, I know all too well the deep pain inflicted by hateful and ignorant people. This kind of behavior targets people because of their race, religion, and sexual orientation, to name a few. It is not acceptable. It is not in keeping with our important mission at Florida Gulf Coast University. It is not okay and it will not be tolerated.
Our University is part of a greater global community, but our University is our home. We will work harder together to make this a home of inclusion and respect for all, and I encourage you to participate in the process because we need all of our voices and aspirations heard. I care deeply about making this happen in a meaningful way.
Wilson G. Bradshaw, Ph.D.
Florida Gulf Coast University