Racist incidents concern SCSU students

Safety alert
Over the past month several swastikas have been scrawled in buildings on the St. Cloud State Unversity. Some minority students say they're starting to fear for their safety.
MPR photo/Tim Post

Like most everyone in the St. Cloud State University student center, Bilal Mohammed is in a rush.

That's because it's finals week.

Mohammed, a junior business student, just wants to focus on his studies. But the recent incidents of racial bias on campus have him and his friends fuming.

Bilal Mohammed
Bilal Mohammed, a junior business student at St. Cloud State University, says the recent incidents of racial bias on campus have him and his friends fuming.
MPR photo/Tim Post

"It angers me because it's one of those things that I thought we moved past. Why is this happening? Why are there people out there who aren't accepting of others? Why can't we just get along, come here, educate ourselves and just leave?" Mohammed says.

Mohammed has always felt welcome here on the St. Cloud State campus. That is until the recent rash of swastika graffiti.

"It kind of makes me think 'Should I stay here to finish up my education or should I just go somewhere else?'. But I'm determined not to leave and not let that get in the way of my educational purposes in life," Mohammed says.

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Julie Cruz heads up the school's multicultural student services office. Cruz says each incident that happens on campus takes a toll on minority students.

"Students really are getting more and more frightened, physically frightened," Cruz says. "They're wondering at what point will this stop. What's the end result going to be? Are we looking at someone coming in and doing harm to somebody?,"

The incidents here at St. Cloud State University began a few weeks ago.

First there was a swastika carved on a computer lab wall near a cultural center on campus. Then one turned up scrawled on a restroom mirror in a residence hall. Other swastikas have been found in bathroom stalls on campus.

One drawn on a piece of paper was slid under a professor's office door.

SCSU sign
A part of SCSU's effort to end racism on campus is done through mandatory courses. At SCSU, and the state's other MnSCU schools, students are required to complete 12 credits in courses dealing with race and gender issues.
MPR photo/Tim Post

Last week a student told police he drew swastikas in cartoons and put them around campus, but he claimed he was making fun of the people responsible for the other graffiti.

Just a few days ago a minority student said a white male spat at her while she walked on campus. And then five minutes later another white male stretched out his arm in a Nazi salute.

The woman reported the incident to campus officials, but she didn't file a report with the police.

St. Cloud State officials are working in conjunction with St. Cloud Police to investigate the bias motivated graffiti.

Sgt. Jerry Edblad says the department's criminal investigation division is now in charge of the case.

Edblad says if police find those responsible for the graffiti, they could be charged with a hate crime.

"If their intent was to create a dismay in certain communities on campus by putting up these swastikas, then yes, you could certainly go ahead and charge it as a hate crime under Minnesota standards," Edblad says.

St. Cloud State's vice president of student affairs Steve Ludwig says he wants people to know that his school won't tolerate such behavior and is doing its best to stop it.

"Our longer term goal is that we end the hate and distrust and ignorance that might cause people to perform such acts in the first place,"

A part of that effort is done through mandatory courses.

At SCSU, and the state's other MnSCU schools, students are required to complete 12 credits in courses dealing with race and gender issues.

Those courses will start up again at St. Cloud State after the holiday break.