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Racist message leads to first Title VI investigation on campus

After an Oklahoma Christian University student found a racist message written on his car, campus members are left wondering what can be done to find the culprit as the school’s formal investigation has yet to identify any leads.

The student, who chose not to be identified in the Talon, discovered a message written using the dust on the rear windshield of his car on Thursday, Oct. 22, reading, “F—— [name redacted], CRACK LIVES MATTER N———.” (Ed: words were obscured for publication, but were in full view on the windshield) While the student had driven to multiple locations on campus that day, he noticed the writing on his car while it was parked in the lot between the Payne Athletic Center and the Davisson American Heritage building.

After discovering the message, the student, who is Black, filed a police report and initiated a Title VI report. However, both the police and the Title VI investigations have yet to identify a perpetrator.

Oklahoma Christian is legally obligated to adhere to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.”

Universities are not obligated to have a designated incident-reporting system. Oklahoma Christian’s Title VI program is new this semester and allows campus members to report instances of discrimination they may encounter. This is the first report and investigation using the program.

Campus Chief of Police Greg Giltner said he and his officers have watched camera footage from outdoor cameras near parking lots, but nothing has come of the search. 

“We go through each parking lot where we know that the cameras are working; some of them are pointed in different directions, but we go ahead and look,” Giltner said. “There was nothing identified when the officers looked on the cameras.”

However, Giltner said many cameras on campus do not work.

“We have a lot of cameras around campus; some of those haven’t worked since I’ve been here, some don’t even have cameras in them,” Giltner said. “You can’t zero down to one specific vehicle. I don’t know of any new cameras, outside cameras since I’ve been here in five years.”

Risa Forrester, chief communications officer and Title VI advocate, said the investigation is at a standstill unless someone comes forward with information.

“Without any leads, if anyone knows or saw anything, please report that to police,” Forrester said. “Unfortunately, no evidence has been found. No other similar incidents have been reported.”

Ngozi Iwunze, a friend of the victim, said the individual felt frustrated nothing was coming of the investigation.

“We felt that not enough was being done to spread awareness about the incident,” Iwunze said. “It’s a safety hazard. [The perpetrator] knew this person’s name and wrote it on his car. He could know where [the victim] lives. It could lead to physical harm.”

Two weeks after the initial incident, the men of Delta Gamma Sigma, the social club to which the victim belongs, decided to go public with the picture of the car. Posting on the club’s Twitter account, the picture received significant feedback from campus members.

Aaron Parrott, president of Delta, said the tweet was intended to alert the campus of a racist incident and potentially help identify a suspect.

“We wanted to see something like this acknowledged as a campus,” Parrott said. “It is a public thing. It would have been a smart and encouraging thing to [the victim] to say, ‘This happened. We don’t support this. If you know anything, let us know.’ Just get people talking, maybe someone did see something.”

Iwunze said the victim was not aware of Title VI reporting, a new feature on campus this semester.

“He didn’t even know who was over Title VI and how to fill out a form,” Iwunze said. “I had to show him where the office was, who to talk to. That’s another reason why we’re upset that we feel like things weren’t moving in the right direction: he didn’t know what other steps to take.”

Because this incident involved a criminal act, the investigation has featured police involvement. 

Forrester said the police investigation and Title VI investigation have worked together to “some degree.” 

“Assistant Dean of Students Gary Jones waited on the police report to make sure he had all the facts, as well as hearing from the victim, to file the Title VI report,” Forrester said. “Both of those were done on Oct. 26.”

Giltner said there have been difficulties moving forward with the investigation since the Title VI reporting system is a separate entity.

“The communication is a major breakdown,” Giltner said. “It completely ties my hands when Title VI and the police department don’t communicate because of a confidentiality issue. We can’t change federal law; that’s just the boundaries I work in, but there are times I feel like I’m sitting in the dark.”

Information about the Title VI reporting system can be found when searching the Oklahoma Christian website or visiting the OC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion student council’s social media pages.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting the word out about the Title VI process,” Forrester said. “Students need to know this is a thing.”

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One Comment

  1. Anna Wilder Anna Wilder November 24, 2020

    This a very interesting story.

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