EMU finds racist graffiti on 2nd campus building

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

A day after racist graffiti was found on a building at Eastern Michigan University, school officials said Wednesday that a slur was discovered scrawled on a stairwell wall in a dormitory.

University officials responded by announcing steps to fight intolerance on campus and offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the graffiti.

Officials discovered and removed the second racist message in a stairwell of Wise Hall while inspecting the campus after graffiti was found painted on the side of King Hall.

The graffiti included the letters “KKK” painted in red, white and blue and “Leave N****RS.” The incident sparked outrage, including a Black Lives Matter protest that attracted about 100 students.

EMU President James Smith wrote in a campus email Wednesday that the graffiti is directed at the African-American community.

“However, removal of these racist messages does not eliminate the impact of such hateful and intentional actions,” he said. “I want to reiterate that I, along with hundreds of people in the University community whom I have heard from, strongly condemn these criminal acts, which are completely counter to the values and welcoming environment of our highly diverse campus.”

The racist graffiti comes in the wake of a police shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the posting of intolerant messages about that incident on social media by the co-owner of Bookies Bar and Grill in Detroit; the bar owner later apologized.

In his email, Smith said he and other university administrators met at University House with more than 100 students who had marched there “to express their fear, concern and anger.”

“We listened to students’ concerns and shared with them the utmost priority with which we investigate and address these matters,” he wrote. “We were asked directly if this would be ‘swept under the rug’ and we assured those who attended, and I assure all of you reading this message, that it will not.”

He outlined immediate, short and long-term plans to address issues of race and diversity, including an increased police presence and a feedback forum for anyone to anonymously submit questions, concerns and requests for institutional action.

Smith also announced a forum by early October to engage with EMU leaders and suggest actions to address race and diversity.

“We are committed to continuing to take tangible actions to ensure a safe, inclusive and welcoming campus environment,” he wrote.

Smith told those with information about the graffiti incidents to contact the EMU Police tip line at 734-487-4847.

In the meantime, the EMU president said all of the school’s resources are being directed toward identifying the person or persons involved so they could be brought to justice. EMU Police are reviewing campus security video and meeting with those who have tips.

Smith ended his email with a joint statement from Jaren Johnson, president of the Black Student Union, and Tanasia Morton, president of the EMU Student Government.

“In distressing times such as this, it is imperative that the student body, faculty, staff, and administration coalesce together in a show of solidarity,” the statement said. “Despite the strife we may encounter, we will remain resilient and overcome vitriolic acts of prejudice. The utilization of fear-inducing mechanisms such as those displayed today will not deter the members of Black Student Union from exhibiting our pride in the mission, values, and overarching purpose of our organization to bring about unity to the entire campus.”

The letter also encouraged students to contact the Department of Public Safety if they feel unsafe at (734) 487-1222 or (734) 487-3387.

“Please refrain from living in fear,” the letter concluded. “Combat injustice when you see it and feel free to reach out to other entities on campus when you are in distress. We cannot emphasize enough to remain conscious at all times and use the resources that are available to you. Black Student Union stands with you and supports you.”