President Lahey responds to campus hate crimes

By on October 22, 2008
Joe Pelletier

Hamden Police are now investigating three hate crime incidents on campus, Quinnipiac University President John Lahey confirmed Monday night. A student reported the most recent case to University security shortly after 10:30 a.m. Monday, Lahey said.

According to Lahey, a black student, who is a member of the men’s basketball team, received an anonymous phone call Monday morning. The caller made racially charged comments and threats towards the student, Lahey said.

Hamden Police are also investigating two additional incidents that took place Friday and Saturday during the early hours of the morning, Lahey said. On both occasions, according to Lahey, threatening racial slurs were posted outside residence hall rooms occupied by freshman basketball players on the West side of Dana English Hall.

“This was despicable and cowardly. The people who did this are not welcome in this community,” Lahey said in an interview with The Chronicle Monday night. “When we catch whoever is involved, they will be dismissed from this University without question. It doesn’t have to get to the level of crime for us to not want them in this community.”

It remains unclear as to whether the three separate incidents have any connection to each other, but according to Lahey, it is a possibility.

“We have good reason to believe that at least one person was involved in at least two or three of these incidents,” Lahey said.

According to Lahey, Hamden Police are currently looking into whether the victims are being targeted because of their involvement with the basketball team, their race or both.

“The police are wondering if it has something to do with the basketball team because there are other black students living in that building. It may be just by chance,” Lahey said.

While these racially charged acts may seem similar to a case that occurred in the Ledges last month, there is a defining difference. The most recent incidents are felony-level criminal acts, according to Connecticut law. In September, someone wrote an anti-Semitic slur on a Resident Assistant’s whiteboard in The Ledges. The remark, referred to as “hate speech” by University officials, did not constitute a felony “hate crime” because it did not make a distinct threat. All of the most recent comments were threatening in nature, President Lahey said. According to state law, threatening to harm someone because of their race is “punishable by one to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000 or both.”

Of the nearly 1500 members of Quinnipiac’s freshman class who volunteered their ethnicity to the University, three percent identified as black, according to the Office of Admissions’ Web site. While Lahey does not believe the level of diversity on campus is an underlying cause of the recent events, he does think some students come to Quinnipiac with very little exposure to diversity.

“My theory is that I think we bring in 1500 brand new people into the community who come from all different kinds of places. I think we bring some people here who are actually exposed to more diversity here on this campus than some of the schools they come from. Some come from private schools and suburban schools that are predominantly white,” he said.

As the investigation continues, the University’s two main concerns are to catch the person or persons involved in committing the acts and to make sure the victims are comfortable and know that they have the University’s support, Lahey said.

The president continues to encourage any student who may have information regarding any of the three crimes to contact the anonymous tip line that has been created at 203-582-3008, or to call campus security at 203-582-8782.


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