“Even if you don’t come up to me, even if you don’t really mean your apology, I just want to say that I forgive you.”
Jaymee Dixon, a first-year music major and biology minor, said she was shocked but not surprised by the racial slur written on her dorm room whiteboard early Sunday morning.
“I came up to my door after hanging out with my friends,” Dixon said. “And I just saw the word n***** on my door.”
Dixon said she first told her mom about the incident, who contacted Joe Campos, associate dean of students.
“Since I couldn’t see the person, I didn’t see who it was, they can’t ID the person,” Dixon said. “There’s no cameras in the hall. There needs to be cameras in the hall. Until somebody speaks up, until somebody gives some evidence, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
When administration addressed the incident in a campus-wide email Monday morning, it also informed students of another act of hateful speech. President Marty Martin said a swastika had been carved inside the Olmsted elevator.
“Both of these acts were done in a way that offered the offenders some sense of concealment and no one has come forward to take responsibility for either act,” Martin said in the email. “These facts attest to the cowardly nature of the conduct. An offense has been committed against one of our students and against this community. A wound has been inflicted that requires care and attention.”
The administration said the swastika in the elevator was removed and the racial slur was erased from Dixon’s whiteboard.
“The word n***** was used back in the slavery days to say that you’re nothing,” Dixon said, “that you’re inferior. This offensive period was demeaning. I’m not lower than you. We’re equal now … There’s no need to call me that. I’m a person. My name is Jaymee. I’m not a n*****.”
Dixon shared her feelings during a public forum Monday afternoon. Roughly 50 students, faculty and staff members attended.
“What can you say about this? I’m sure this has happened to other students before …” Dixon said. “I’m emotional. I’m mad. I’m frustrated.”
Students and faculty shared similar feelings throughout the hour-and-a-half-long gathering.
“Are we supposed to show outrage?” one student of color said. “I feel like that’s what they want us to do.”
“I think we need to react like a human being,” someone replied. “When someone labels me as a n*****, I don’t think we need to cater to how white people think we should react.”
Faculty spoke about conversations they’ve had in their classrooms.
“We (white people) need to get angry,” one professor said. “Guilt is not a productive emotion. White people need to realize this is an injury to us as a whole.”
Some students expressed concern that Drake too often asks students to respond to these types of issues.
“She (Dixon) shouldn’t have to come up with the next step,” one student said.
Other students said campus always appears to be reacting to hateful instances instead of constantly working towards change.
“I feel like it’s a reactive thing every time,” one student said. “We need to feel safe in the environment we’re living in.”
Others said that Drake can’t prevent such injustices from ever happening.
“It’s not Drake’s fault that students are running around doing racially inappropriate things,” one person said.
The group then started talking about what changes could be made and what actions could be taken to move forward.
A student suggested stepping in when people use racial slurs or when someone flies a Confederate flag.
“When you start holding people accountable, it will be uncomfortable,” she said. “Having a racially charged event like this happening every semester is unacceptable.”
Several people suggested making a diversity class required to graduate, just like other Areas of Inquiry (AOIs).
Erin Lain, the associate provost of equity and inclusion, said that Faculty Senate has been working on a new curriculum that would incorporate such a change. Provost Sue Mattison said a public forum would be held on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. for students to share their thoughts on the proposed new curriculum.
“Before I graduate, I hope to see (diversity) become more of a priority for Drake,” one junior said.
Faculty members mentioned that the hiring process is being refined so that interviewers ask specifically about previous diversity work and that job openings reach a wide range of candidates.
Several students suggested that a diversity and inclusion aspect be added to Welcome Weekend.
Beyond student actions, Director of Public Safety Scott Law said Drake Public Safety is conducting an investigation into the two incidents this past weekend.
“Quick investigation and adjudication are paramount to our healing from the events this weekend,” Lain said in an email this week.
Law confirmed that the FBI is on campus working with Public Safety. The federal agency is looking into its own investigation and will be speaking to students as it sees fit, according to Law.
“They’re gathering information at this stage,” Law said. “If they can identify someone or through their efforts find out who it is, they would then take over. But I think at this point … with many campuses that are unfortunately having these types of incidents occur, they’re trying to see if something is starting that they need to be involved in.”
These incidents, according to Law, are hate crimes.
“If it’s a student at Drake, then Drake would follow through as we did last year when we had an incident,” Law said.
Last year, a Latina first-year student found signs on her dorm room door referring to building a wall on the Mexico/U.S. border and saying women were unfit to be president, among other things.
Law said it’s unlikely that someone from the outside community did this because residence halls are locked for 24 hours for non-residents.
“It could be a student who’s joined a group that’s here in the community,” Law said. “So that’s what the FBI wants to get involved in, to see if there’s a bigger picture here.”
Roughly two weeks ago, a photo of five Creston High School students wearing white hoods and waving a Confederate flag next to a burning cross circulated on social media. This raised questions statewide about racism and discrimination in Iowa.
“That’s a part, I imagine, of what the perpetrator of the act wants,” Martin said in an interview. “They want people to feel unsafe, threatened and insecure. They want to increase anxiety, stress and fear, and it’s a natural reaction to their conduct.
“I want the individuals who are feeling that way at all to know that I as president, I as just Marty Martin the person, and I know Sue Mattison, our provost, Sue Mattison as a person and members of our leadership team and all of our faculty and staff that we are here for these individuals. We are here to provide as much support as possible.”
While the administration and law enforcement are looking for the responsible culprit, Dixon said she’s looking for something else.
“All I want is an apology,” Dixon said. “I just want them to fess up. I don’t want them to get kicked out of school. If they feel like that’s what needs to happen, let it happen. But I just want them to apologize.”
Jacob Reynolds also contributed reporting to this article.