Not today, asshats.
Dear Members of the Emporia Connection Alumni Chapter,
Greetings from Emporia State University. I hope this communication finds you well, and I hope to see many of you at your upcoming reunion in Emporia. As members of Emporia State University’s Black Alumni Chapter, I wanted to provide you with an update regarding the University’s investigation of an alleged hate crime last spring and racial discrimination within SLIM. This investigation began on July 10, 2015 has now been concluded.
Last week, I met personally with individuals and groups most closely touched by the allegations of a hate crime and racial discrimination in our School of Library and Information Management. I felt like each and every one of these people deserved to hear the outcome personally after the completion of the internal investigation.
At this time, I can share with you the outcome as well and ask for your collaboration as we move forward.
On July 10, 2015, I directed that an internal investigation be conducted by ESU Human Resources into an alleged hate crime and a concern over potential discrimination or harassment in the School of Library and Information Management. This investigation was conducted as outlined in the University Policy Manual [3D.0106.05(A)(2)].
An extra step was added to the process to address any concern regarding the objectivity of the internal investigation. That step included a review by two external, independent consultants. The review encompassed an analysis of the process used to conduct the investigation and an assessment of the evidence upon which the findings and conclusions are based.
Both independent reviewers, an attorney in a Kansas-based multi-partner firm and a human resources management consultant who is a former member of the Higher Learning Commission Board of Trustees and the Ohio Ethics Commission, concurred that Emporia State’s internal investigation processes and findings were logical, thorough and fair.
Although the investigation materials and the independent reviewers’ reports are confidential personnel documents, I am sharing the following information to answer the three key questions that were the focus of the investigation.
Question 1: Was a hate crime committed in the School of Library and Information Management on or about April 8, 2015?
The internal investigation concluded and both independent reviewers concurred that no hate crime was committed. A police report was made July 1 to ESU Police and Safety claiming that a hate crime was committed. The alleged hate crime consisted of the writing of a racially derogatory word in a graduate student's notebook and the circumstances around which the word was written.
This report was investigated and the investigation report passed on to the Lyon County Attorney, which is the standard procedure. The Lyon County Attorney concluded that no crime had been committed as writing an offensive word is not a crime. In addition, none of the circumstances surrounding the writing of this word are criminal:
The word was written on a page within a student’s notebook
The notebook was in a non-private office to which many people have access throughout the day
No one has admitted to writing the word
The page on which the word was written was discarded by the student at the end of the semester
No evidence has been offered or discovered proving who wrote the word, and
No crime was committed in order to write the word in the notebook.
Since writing the word in question is not a crime, regardless of how offensive, and since the circumstances that existed surrounding the writing of this word are not criminal, no crime was committed. Without a crime having been committed there isnothing to which the designation “hate crime” can be attached. Thus, there has been no hate crime.
Specifically, thereis a general misconception about the definition of a hate crime. Kansas law does not contain any crime known or referred to as a “hate crime.” It is true, however, that upon conviction of a felony, the sentence imposed can be increased beyond the maximum penalty allowed by law if evidence is presented proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the motivation for the crime was race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation of the victim.
Kansas law on this issue is consistent with the Clery Act and the Uniform Crime Reporting definitions, which define a hate crime as a felony or other serious crime where the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias of race, gender, perceived gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or disability.
Question 2: Has racial discrimination occurred in the School of Library and Information Management during the 2014-2015 Academic Year?
Each allegation was investigated and the investigation found no evidence of racial discrimination in any instance. The internal investigation included personal interviews of 19 witnesses and resulted in approximately 350 pages of notes, documentation and other information. Specific allegations that had been claimed to be instances of racial discrimination were evaluated, as was the overall working environment within the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM). Both independent reviewers concluded that the internal investigation and its findings were thorough and appropriate.
The university has concluded that although a hostile environment based on unlawful discrimination does not exist in SLIM, certain aspects of the working environment in SLIM need to be addressed.
Question 3: Are there further observations or recommendations to be made for SLIM?
Through the investigative process, issues related to the work environment for all SLIM faculty and staff have been identified. We have identified opportunities in SLIM including, but not limited to:
The need for better and more effective collaboration,
The need for a more open environment in which differing views are valued and appreciated,
Better adherence to university protocols and processes,
The need to review particular SLIM systems and processes, and
Specific performance issues within SLIM.
It remains my conviction that the University conducted a logical, thorough and fair investigation, as corroborated by two independent reviewers. Does racial discrimination and/or marginalization occur on our campus? Some believe it does; others do not. But in this particular instance we found no substantive evidence that it occurred in SLIM during the 2014-15 academic year. That said we are committed to working with others in Hornet Nation to identify the issues related to both and to develop a plan to address them in a systemic, sustainable way.
While the University concluded no hate crime occurred, I want to make it clear that Emporia State is not hiding behind the legal definition of a hate crime. The University has stated publicly that the written racial slur discovered by a SLIM graduate student in her notebook is reprehensible. Again, the University is committed to working with others to determine the best means to preclude this kind of action from ever happening again on our campus.
Provost Cordle and I have met with Black Faculty and Staff and Latino Faculty and Staff representatives, who embrace the opportunity to work together to advance the common good of all associated with Emporia State University as well as the broader community. I will be calling on others to elevate the conversation of inclusivity on campus and to work together to develop an action plan to build a more inclusive campus community. I welcome your thoughts about how we can accomplish this goal.
While there still may be differing perspectives regarding this issue, it is now time for us to move forward, coming together to focus on our shared interest of building a better, stronger, more inclusive Hornet Nation, all to the aim of changing lives for the common good.
This University has stood the test of time admirably for 150+ years. As your current leader with an earned reputation for acting always with integrity and transparency, I again ask that we move forward from here to lay the foundation for the next 150, working together to build a better, stronger, more inclusive Hornet Nation in which no one is marginalized, no one is disrespected or subjected to any kind of slur, and no one’s voice is unheard. It is by listening intently to all voices, participating in hard, absolutely honest conversations, and committing to be part of the solution that we will we be able to do so.
Thank you for engaging with me in my hard, absolutely honest conversation and for hearing my voice. I look forward to seeing many of you at the Sunday brunch during your upcoming reunion here at Emporia State University.
Yours for ESU,