3 St. Thomas students are targets of hate messages

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 31, 2007 - 11:13 AM

Racial notes trouble St. Paul college

Somebody is targeting three black female students at the University of St. Thomas with threatening messages of a racial nature, and they’re going to great lengths to do so.

In at least three cases this week, black women who live in John Paul II Hall have encountered racially-natured messages in the form of notes slipped under their door or written on their residence hall door. The notes are intended for them, school officials said.

A guard was posted outside the students’ room overnight, but that did not stop the hate mail. One of the women was working in a campus computer lab around 2 a.m. when she found a racially-slurred message that somebody had slipped under the door.

School officials, including President Dennis Dease, are calling the threats a hate crime and say the most recent incidents follow a series of previously unreported acts of intolerance targeted at the same students.

So far school officials and police have no idea who is behind the notes.

“It’s quite a mystery,” said Jim Winterer, a university spokesman. “It’s really weird. As more and more this goes on maybe we’ll be able to figure it out.”

The first message surfaced around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. A female student found racially insensitive writing scrawled on the door of her room on the second floor in John Paul II Hall. Then just before 8 a.m. students sharing the same room discovered a note that had been slipped under their door, university officials said. “My first reaction was - I was actually in shock,” sophomore accounting major Malaika Smith told WCCO-TV.

In an e-mail sent to faculty, students and staff on Tuesday evening, President Dease said “I am so very sorry that this has happened. On behalf of the university, I extend my sincerest apologies to each of the students. I have said in the past and will continue to say that hate crimes in any form at St. Thomas are not tolerated and must be condemned.”

Dease said the university will respond swiftly and will support the students. A program to decry the hate crimes and support the students is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Thursday.

This is not the first cases of hate crimes on the St. Paul campus. Earlier this year racial slurs were found written on posters in McNeely Hall. One was found on Feb. 9 in a second-floor lounge. About a month later a second note was found on a poster in a first-floor lounge.

The university has set up a telephone line and an e-mail address where anybody with information about the recent crimes can report information anonymously. They also can call St. Paul Police at 651-291-1111 or the campus public safety department at 651-962-5100.

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