It’s hard to find much good in a Halloween night incident during which a 21-year-old Texas A&M University at Galveston student felt fear and intimidation when four college-age people entered her dormitory and threatened her with vulgar, racial slurs.
“He came up to my door and screamed ‘n…er’ loudly multiple times,” Corinthia Morgan told The Daily News.
The only redeeming aspects of the sorry incident were Morgan’s actions and those of campus administrators, who launched an “intense and expedited investigation” into the incident.
Although the incident was wrong in many ways, Morgan and campus officials did so many things right. Rather than ignore it, Morgan met with Danny Roe, the diversity education specialist in the Office of Student Affairs and filed a report.
The university immediately moved Morgan to a new dorm.
Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Sutherland held a mandatory floor meeting at Morgan’s original dorm and police questioned residents about the incident, officials said.
Col. Mike Fossum, CEO of the Galveston campus, sent a letter to students and faculty Nov. 9 about the incident and reiterated that such behavior was intolerable. He promised the campus would take appropriate action when the perpetrator was identified.
There’s nothing new about racially motivated events on college campuses. What’s new is that more and more campuses, after years of reacting too slowly, are taking the matter seriously and publicly denouncing such ugly and abhorrent behavior.
It’s difficult to fathom what would possess young people to inflict hate and bigotry on a peer or what makes some of them so hateful to begin with. Their upbringing, of course, plays a role, but so does an environment that condones and even emboldens people who are prone to use hate speech and intimidating tactics.
At a time when the white supremacist movement is intensifying and groups litter campuses across the nation with Confederate flags, nooses and hateful fliers, denouncing such acts is imperative. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism reports 188 white supremacist related incidents have occurred on 126 college campus since September 2016.
Texas A&M University and other places of higher education — and society in general — should ostracize perpetrators of such despicable deeds. No one in polite society should at all feel comfortable expressing racist attitudes.
There should be no hesitation, no equivocation in condemning all such acts and in taking corrective action.
Enrollment has steadily risen since the Pelican Island campus opened in 1962. In the fall 2015 semester, enrollment reached 2,324. Only about 2 percent of those students are black, while 1,763 white students make up 76 percent of the enrollment and Hispanic students are second with 16 percent, according to a campus fact book.
Last year, Carol Bunch-Davis, an associate professor at the campus, saw a need for an inclusive organization for students to discuss different perspectives through varying identities. Bunch-Davis guided interested students and faculty in creating Aggies United.
Such efforts might not dissolve the hate or ignorance from people’s hearts or minds. But the best defense against hate and ignorance is education and exposing people to different perspectives. So is a good, strong unambiguous public denouncement.
Texas A&M University at Galveston should be commended for its handling of this serious issue.
• Laura Elder