Statement Regarding Flyers Found in a Residence Hall on Nov. 30

Dec. 2, 2016


On the morning of Nov. 30, a custodian discovered flyers with racist and homophobic messages strewn around the doorway of a student who identifies as a member of the African-American community.

The incident is being reported as a “hate crime,” as per the federal Jeanne Clery Act.

“Diversity and inclusion are among the core values of Webster University. With a long history of reaching out to under-served and under-represented communities, Webster University has established scholarships, held community conferences, hosted numerous guest lecturers, and encouraged students, faculty and staff to discuss and act on these values,” said Nicole Roach, Associate Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement. “When we learn that a member of our community may have violated these values, it strikes us at our core.”

The discovery of the flyers was made early in the morning, before the first classes of the day started. The flyers were approximately a dozen messages repeatedly copied on approximately a hundred pieces of paper. Some of the messages referenced the student’s ethnicity, while others had homophobic slurs.

The custodian immediately gathered the flyers and reported them to the University´s Department of Housing and Residential Life. The University´s Dean of Students Office and Department of Public Safety have launched an investigation. If the investigation reveals that a student is responsible for the flyers, that student could face a judicial affairs hearing and a Title IX investigation due to the nature of the comments on the flyers. Employees are reviewing guest logs and security cameras from the residential hall to see if any clues about the perpetrator turn up.

Key members of the administration and Public Safety, the Student Government Association and the Multicultural Center also were notified of the incident.

Student Affairs employees contacted the student who seemed to be the apparent target of the attack. The student did not see the flyers and said he did not know why someone would target him. Administrators also discussed the incident with the student’s parents to make them aware of the incident and how the University was responding. A counselor was made available to the student, if needed.

Student Affairs organized several meetings this week for all on-campus residents to reiterate the University’s commitment to inclusive excellence and diversity. The first meeting was held the evening the flyers were discovered. Prior to these meetings, Housing and Residential Life (HRL) staff briefed all student RAs on the incident and next steps. During concurrent floor meetings led by HRL staff, resident students were afforded time to process and discuss the incident, encouraged to inform staff of any details they might know, and were offered further support service from HRL staff and Counseling and Life Development staff.

The safety of students is of paramount importance to Webster University, as is the understanding that diversity and inclusion is a core value. This value is underlined in programming and communications throughout Webster’s global network, most recently in a message distributed to the worldwide community from the University president and provost about recent initiatives led by administrators, faculty, staff and students.

Earlier this year, numerous working groups comprised of students, faculty and staff were formed to investigate ways to improve the admissions, retention and graduation rates of minority groups, increase the number of scholarships and grants available to underrepresented students, and increase the diversity of the faculty and staff. Those groups posted their latest reports at the beginning of the fall (http://www.webster.edu/diversity-inclusion/working-groups.html). Final reports are expected by the end of 2016.

Recently, work has started among students, faculty and staff to develop a Student and Staff Inclusion Council. An online Bias Incident Reporting Form where members of the community can anonymously report an occurrence of hate or bias was also launched (https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?WebsterUniv&layout_id=31).

Other recent actions include:

  • The University community welcomed Arnd Wacther to campus in May for a screening of his Crossing Borders films, which explores issues of diversity and inclusion. All three films in this series, as well as curricular tools to use them with students, are available online via the University Library. The event was a collaboration between several campus groups, including the Center for International Education, the University Library, the Faculty Development Center, the Global Citizenship Collaboratory, and the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA).
  • The MCISA has been hosting weekly conversations for student dialogue on Wednesdays in the Global Exchange space.
  • A student-led planning committee is developing training for other students in the area of diversity and inclusion.
  • A faculty leadership group is exploring potential programs for faculty to address concerns raised by students about diversity and inclusion.
  • Faculty and members of Academic Affairs are exploring ways to develop academic programs that focus on LGBTQ and Afro-American topics. This grew from student requests for this curriculum.
  • The University hosts an annual conference to discuss diversity issues in higher education. The next conference is scheduled for March 1 and March 2 on the home campus.

These initiatives are designed to further enhance the University’s community by making it more inclusive. While progress has been made, it is inherently understood that the work is ongoing. For more information about Webster University’s Diversity and Inclusion programs, visit the Diversity and Inclusion website at http://www.webster.edu/diversity-inclusion

tags:  diversity and inclusion,