Photo courtesy of Drake Rainbow Union
BY LORIEN MACENULTY
Drake University administrators have addressed no less than three incidents of hateful actions on campus this academic year.
In November, two Latina students found their dorm plastered with anti-women and anti-Hispanic rhetoric weeks before the presidential election. A Jewish student discovered an anti-Semitic slur carved on a chair in Meredith Hall in February. Most recently, posters advertising Pride Week, aimed at building awareness for Drake’s population, were removed, torn or covered by other signs in various places on campus.
The Office of Student Life responded to each act. Director of Student Engagement, Equity and Inclusion Tony Tyler listed the procedure the office followed.
“One of the first things we do (is) we check on the person’s safety and their own welfare and wellness right now,” Tyler said. “If it’s any sort of unsafe situation or threatening situation, we make sure Drake Public Safety is available to support that.”
Drake Public Safety (DPS) says its average response time to non-service calls is less than two minutes and 40 seconds. Even in situations where somebody isn’t immediately in danger, such as the three cases listed above, Director of Public Safety at Drake Scott Law is still notified.
“If the discriminatory act happens against a particular individual, then we’re going to work with that individual for a safety plan with them,” Law said.
Immediately after checking on the victim’s physical well-being, their emotional status is looked after. Professional counselors are made available if the individual needs to talk.
As the situation demands, Drake has access to the Des Moines mobile crisis unit. The service, provided by the grassroots group National Alliance on Mental Illness, has counselors at almost all times of the day. Informal discussions may be held with a residential assistant (RA) and even with Tyler, who is usually one of the first responders to an incident.
“Do they need follow-up right there? Do they need to speak to someone? If it was something violent, do they need to get to the hospital?” Tyler said. “If they observed some vandalism, how are they right now? First is physical safety, but then emotional safety and psychological wellness in that moment.”
Even if a singular action is over, the residual effects can extend far into the future. In response, DPS can investigate and gather information on an incident. An administrator may send out a campus-wide email notifying the school of a discriminatory act.
In what Tyler called “ripples” of effect, the targeted community and then the student body are sequentially affected by a discriminatory action. As a result, the Office of Student Engagement, Equity and Inclusion initiates contact and works with the leadership of affected groups.
“For example, for the recent anti-Semitic vandalism that occurred on campus, we reached out to Hillel, the Jewish student organization on campus, and worked with them to make sure their students were supported and were getting as clear of information as we could give,” Tyler said.
Organization leaders also work with DPS to coordinate further security at events.
“We are not the police, but we are a security presence (so groups) feel like they can have their event,” Law said. “We will then do a drive by of their location or sit in a car nearby so that they know they can be safe having their event, walking back to the campus, or walking from that event on campus back to the other area, and not necessarily feel like they have to worry about who did this hate crime.”
Privacy of the victimized individual or group is respected upon request. However, the Clery Act, passed in 1990, mandates that each university file and make public crimes that occur on campus.
Given the Clery statistics assembled in Drake’s 2016 Annual Security and Annual Fire Safety Report, hateful acts are on the rise on campus. The calendar year of 2015 saw no hateful incidents reported, and 2014 saw only one. 2016 had one, and 2017 has at least two thus far.
The four students responsible for the November instances came forward and were immediately suspended from the residence halls. Public safety has not indicated whether the person who vandalized the Meredith desk was found, and same with the Pride Week posters.