By: LAUREN GLASS-Contributing Writer
Editor’s Note: Lauren Glass is a contributing writer who has written a series of articles on minority enrollment and experience at UD. Glass is a recent UD alumna. Her other articles can be found at flyernews.com
Several African-American students on campus have reported facing stereotypes of being more likely to commit crimes during their time at the University of Dayton.
“People will peg me as a stereotype, which is unfair, but that’s the reality of it. They peg me as a stereotype of a person who’s there to steal or do something bad to their house or something,” Joel Carter, a junior history and international studies double major and African-American student, said.
Although he said he does not experience these situations all the time, he said there have been instances where he was wrongly accused of stealing at parties, and has been asked to leave a student neighborhood party before because he did not know the residents, even when the friends he arrived with, all white students, also did not know the residents, but were not asked to leave.
“For me I have to be more aware of what I’m doing when I’m at a party, or not acting a fool or acting reckless,” he said. “And especially if I arrive with friends, I should stay close with my friends. You have to keep that mentality because people will think things of you.”
Carter said all of his friends would agree this is part of the typical UD experience for African-American male students.
“We always talk about it like it’s a joke,” he said.
Other students also said they noticed African-American male students are more likely to be stopped and questioned by UD Public Safety while on campus.
Alana McGee, a senior sociology major and white student, said she witnessed an incident where an African-American student was stopped on Kiefaber Street by a UD police officer last spring.
“He was an African-American, he had a book bag on his back, actually, and he was riding his bike down Kiefaber,” McGee said. “The cops stopped him, and asked him what he was doing in the student neighborhood, why he was there, what his name was, all of this other stuff.”
McGee said the student presented his student ID to the police officer and explained he was going somewhere with his books before the police officer finished questioning him.
McGee said she did not know why the officer stopped the student, but said she thinks a white student in the same situation would have been less likely to be stopped and questioned.
“I was really surprised. I was standing on the porch watching it happen, and like it was one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Really?’ He was a student here. If it was a white dude doing it, would you really stop him?” she said.
Carter said that in his three and a half years at UD, he has been stopped and questioned by Public Safety officers three or four times while walking through campus. He was not involved in any disruptive or criminal behavior any of the times, he said.
“I’ve been stopped many times by Public Safety for matching a description. And when it’s night, you get stopped for looks. It’s just how the world is,” Carter said.
UD Police Chief Bruce Burt said he is aware of the perception that African-American students get stopped by UD Public Safety officers more often than other students, but said that it is not true.
UD Public Safety has a policy which prohibits racially-biased policing, he said. The policy states that “enforcement action” should be based on “observed conduct” or information received about an individual based on a report given by a witness. Burt said Public Safety officers are trained to stop and question people based on these criteria.
Burt did not have information regarding the numbers of students that have been stopped and questioned without receiving a citation.
Burt said Public Safety is attempting to address student perceptions through working with the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Round table discussions are held several times a year where officers meet with students to “try to establish relationships” and to “dispel rumors” about racially-biased policing, he said.
Carlos Stewart, assistant director of multicultural affairs and an African-American male, has experience working with minority students and Public Safety officers on this issue.
He said he heard about this occurring more last year than this year because last year there was more crime on campus and more Public Safety reports were sent out, many of which reported crimes by perpetrators whose description identified them as a black male.
He said this created a distressing situation for African-American male students at UD.
“If I’m a black male on this campus, and I read that every week, and I see that every single one is about a black male, I’m like, ‘I’m not going outside. I don’t want people to think that I’m the person.’ Especially if I think that description looks like me,” Stewart said.
Stewart said it is a complicated issue because if the police receive a description of a suspect, they need to do what they can to try to find that suspect. It does, however, create an uncomfortable situation for those students who match the description and who get stopped, he said.
“For me you know, that would be another added burden that would frustrate me. For the police officers, they’re just doing their job. They’re trying to figure stuff out, so that other people don’t get into problems. I think it’s hard,” Stewart said.