Update regarding Monday's racist act

February 13, 2019

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

As many of you know, a racist act took place at Best Hall on Monday, February 11. I want to emphasize both our concern for the student involved and all other students affected by it, and the actions taken by the University. As was communicated to campus yesterday (Tuesday, February 12), a black doll was found tied to a shower rod in a bathroom of a Resident Advisor (RA) in Best Hall. Another resident of the building admitted placing the doll there.

The racist, hateful imagery surrounding this is abhorrent to all of us and has no place anywhere, and especially not at Eastern Michigan University. Acts such as this harm not only the person involved, but create a wider concern and fear, particularly among our Black and other minority populations, and run directly contrary to our commitment to establish a supportive and welcoming environment for everyone in our campus community.

This is a very serious matter. Here is where the investigations stand at this time:

  • The EMU Department of Public Safety and the Office of Wellness and Community Standards launched investigations within an hour of learning what had happened.
  • The results of the police investigation were turned over today to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office, which will determine whether any criminal charges will be filed.
  • The Office of Wellness and Community Standards investigation will follow the provisions of the EMU Student Code of Conduct, with any appropriate disciplinary actions to be issued at the conclusion of their investigation.

I am committed to communicating widely, timely and frequently when we face problems of this nature. Our commitment to timeliness means that our messages may at times not properly convey our personal anguish or sufficient details about next steps. Specifically, I understand that some members of the campus community did not believe the tone or content of some campus communications yesterday met the standards to which we hold ourselves. For that, I apologize, and I reiterate my pledge here for the University to do better.

It is clear from Monday’s racist act and others in the past, on our campus and nationwide, that we must continue to learn, teach, listen and explore opportunities for greater education, awareness and dialogue about race and racism. For example, the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion is developing a campus climate study, which will assess how students and employees feel about a variety of aspects of the climate on our campus. The results of that inclusive and comprehensive study will allow us to develop additional strategic actions to continually improve the campus climate and provide additional resources to support our minoritized students.

I joined Eastern Michigan University in 2016 in large part because of the rich diversity of this campus. It makes us a better place to learn, live, and work. Sadly, we live in an environment now where this bedrock principle has been challenged and even rejected by many in our society. Monday’s racist act is not who we are. We must and will do better.

James M. Smith, Ph.D
President, Eastern Michigan University

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