After five separate incidents of racial slurs in four residence halls on the Loyola Marymount University campus since September 3rd, a large group of LMU students, staff and faculty covered the LMU “Sunken Gardens” lawn in front of the university’s Sacred Heart Chapel last week to stand as a united force against the recent presence of racial discrimination.
A loud chant of “No time for hate crimes” echoed throughout the campus at 12:15 p.m. Thursday, September 23rd.
A crowd of mainly LMU students participated in an afternoon rally organized in support of a fight against racial discrimination.
Melissa Abraham, manager of media relations at LMU, said all of the racial slurs have appeared as graffiti in common areas of Doheny, Rosecrans, Leavey 4 and McCarthy Residence Halls.
The discrimination has been directed primarily toward African American students, with four cases of anti-black slurs found in the dorms, she said.
One case of a racial slur toward Asian Americans was found in McCarthy Hall, where two of the five incidents have occurred, she said.
The rally was a student-organized event and was arranged the week before the most recent act of discrimination occurred Monday, September 20th.
The latest incident was considered more of a hate crime than the other four cases because the graffiti made reference to individuals, said Marshall Sauceda, associate dean for Ethnic and Intercultural Services.
The slur was found on a student’s door and targeted black students living in Rosecrans Hall.
The first four cases were more general in nature, he said.
“When the fifth one happened it was a very deliberate and intentional act that rises to a higher level,” Sauceda said.
While LMU, like most college campuses with thousands of students, has had some instances of discriminatory acts over the years, there have not been so many in such a short period of time, he said.
Of the more than 5,000 undergraduate students at LMU, 45 percent are self-select students of color, including Latinos, African American and Asian American, Abraham said.
The university has a history of diversity, she said.
“This is a very multi-cultural campus so this has saddened the community,” she said. “The incident is something that’s really an anomaly to the university.”
The rally provided an opportunity for LMU students, faculty and staff to show that they have a zero tolerance policy for racial discrimination on campus, she said.
The cry against discrimination reached out to a swarm of multi-ethnic students around the campus, who designed a black T-shirt for the rally that simply said “No!” on the front and “Discrimination affects me” on the back.
Many students angered by the recent acts joined in the rally march that began at University Hall and traveled up LMU Drive through the campus and ended at the Sunken Gardens in the center of the school.
A number of speakers stood before the crowd and cameras to express a voice against any form of discrimination that dares to stay at this diverse campus.
“The people who committed these heinous acts are attempting to divide us, but look around, we’re more united than ever,” said LMU junior Chris Pearson, who was the first speaker and one of the students who helped start the rally.
Some goals that Pearson listed to help stop discrimination at LMU included having a discussion of discriminatory issues with students before they arrive on campus, and promoting diversity at the university.
“This can’t be a one day event. This rally today should spark something stronger,” Pearson said. “Discrimination affects us all.”
Some faculty speakers also stood before the crowd to show the university’s intolerance for such acts and to describe what can be done to fight against them.
“This is an ongoing work of building a community where diversity thrives and respect for one another is the rule of the day,” LMU president Robert B. Lawton said.
“The fight against discrimination depends on each of us as an individual.”
While most campuses have different kinds of acts that are considered pranks, these incidents are serious and are crimes, Lawton said.
“This is not a black issue. This is an LMU issue,” said Lane Bove, vice president of student affairs.
“When one person of the community is disrespected, everyone in the community is disrespected.”
No individuals have been caught in relation to committing the discriminatory acts, but the campus is conducting a serious investigation into the matter, Sauceda said.
The Los Angeles Police Department is also helping with the investigation.
Sauceda called the turnout by the LMU community “impressive” and said that the rally was a sign that many people on campus will not let the discrimination get in the way of their university life.
“It was an opportunity to have a multi-cultural group come together to show their outrage and demonstrate their unity,” Sauceda said.