University police label statement uttered through open window a ‘hate crime’

July 25, 2014

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Victor Skinner Victor Skinner

Victor is a communications specialist for EAG and joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Police in Fayetteville are on the lookout for a man who allegedly said something racist in the middle of the night through an open window on the University of Arkansas campus.

garlandhouseAuthorities contend an unknown man who allegedly made a racist comment around 3 a.m. Sunday outside of the U of A’s Garland House committed a hate crime, and they’re on the hunt to bring him to justice, KHOG-TV reports.

The Garland House, which is known as the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house during the school year, is currently housing a group of 25 young professionals visiting from Africa on a six-week exchange program.

Gwamaka Kifukwe, a fellow with the Young African Leaders Initiative, told the television station “we’re happy with the way it’s being handled and do not wish to draw additional attention to it.

“That’s the sentiment shared by the Fellows,” he said.

But University of Arkansas Police Department Capt. Gary Crain believes the incident “is considered a hate crime,” and he’s determined to get to track down the culprit.

“It was dark outside,” Crain told KHOG-TV. “They didn’t get a good look at the individual.”

Regardless, university police are “conducting interviews, contacting individuals that might possibly have any information,” he said.

The television station did not broadcast the nature of the allegedly offensive remarks.

Campus police told KHOG-TV they are devoting extra resources to patrolling around the Garland House and “if a suspect is found, he could face criminal mischief and harassment charges.”

While maintaining a campus free of harassment and discrimination is important, the University’s reaction to this unfortunate event seems a little over the top. Perhaps the summer season is a slow time for university police, but it would seem that the intense focus on such a minor allegation is unwarranted and a waste of resources.

There’s little doubt that the other activities at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity occasionally cross the line of political correctness and proper etiquette.

But officials in higher education and K-12 institutions across the country have become increasingly sensitive to any comments or conduct that could even remotely offend students’ sensibilities. While the allegedly racist comment at U of A may have left the African exchange students with a bad taste in their mouth, they clearly understand that not everyone shares the perpetrator’s perspective.

“This is not a representation of Fayetteville, the University of Arkansas or the state of Arkansas,” Kifukwe told KHOG-TV.

By making a fuss over the incident, school officials are playing into the offender’s game and lending the bad actor far more attention than he deserves.

“The University of Arkansas was surprised and saddened to learn of this harassment and hope that a single act of intolerance doesn’t negatively impact what was otherwise a valuable and enriching opportunity for both the fellows and the university,” according to a U of A statement.

“This attitude is not reflective of the U of A community or our community at large. We believe in inclusion and tolerance and regularly welcome guests from near and afar.”

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