ST. PETER — Even without a suspect identified to help provide context, Gustavus Adolphus College administration are labeling a homecoming incident on campus as a hate crime.
Few details are being released, but a racial slur and a student's name were spray-painted on a sidewalk on campus the weekend of Sept. 28-29.
JoNes VanHecke, dean of students, said she couldn't divulge the location or the nature of the slur. But she said because the message had an intended victim, the incident appears to meet the federal standard for a hate crime.
Most are “bias incidents,” she said, which express a general prejudice without targeted victims. Examples of bias incidents occurred at Gustavus in 2008, when swastikas were found around campus.
“It's still a hateful, horrible thing to have happen in our community. (But) this was directed at a specific student,” VanHecke said. “As a community of learners, we feel like this doesn't have a place.”
The St. Peter Police Department is now leading the investigation. No suspects have been identified.
Following the incident, the anonymous victim of the crime posted a comment through Gustavus Love Confessions' Facebook page offering forgiveness to the perpetrator.
The statement reads in part:
“I am the victim of the hate crime that happened here on our beautiful campus, and I want you all to know that I love you as individuals and Gustavus as a place. This event has dramatically hurt me and wounded me in a way that I never thought possible, but the people of this institution have helped me. … Now to the individual or group that perpetrated this crime against me. I want you to know that I love you for all of your faults. Even for all of the pain that you have caused me, I still recognize that you are a human being as well.”
Administration reached out to the Diversity Center on campus, and two events are planned this week for the Gustavus community. The incident will be addressed at morning chapel services today, and there will be a closed community forum Thursday for students, staff and faculty to gather and share their thoughts.
Glen D. Lloyd, assistant director of Multicultural Student Programs & Services, said it's important for the campus to have a conversation about “who we are” and about the kind of conduct that highlights Gustavus' mission of justice and excellence.
“We heard an outcry from our community that this isn't us,” Lloyd said.
Pearl Leonard-Rock, director of Multicultural Student Programs & Services, said incidents like this can bring up “past hurts” for people who previously were victims, and community forums can help with healing for those people as well.