News

Student Witnesses Racist Message in Bond Academic Center

Outside of Bond Academic Center on PLNU Campus. Photo credit to Charis Johnston.

A Point Loma Nazarene University student walked into the Bond Academic Center (BAC) men’s bathroom on Jan. 25 and found the words “I HATE BLACKS” spelled out on the floor in toilet paper. The student, who requested anonymity, filed a Bias Incident Report, and PLNU’s Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) began an investigation, headed by Title IX Coordinator, Danielle Brown Friberg. 

“As I entered, two men passed me to leave,” the witness said via email. “I looked in and saw a mass of toilet paper strewn about inside the large handicap stall. As I saw it, I said ‘What the hell?’ and I heard the men laugh. As I approached the stall, I saw that the toilet paper was arranged on the floor to spell out ‘I HATE BLACKS.’ I assumed that those guys leaving did it, but I have no evidence to make that claim. To my knowledge, I’m the only one to have seen it.” 

The student was on their way to class and kicked the paper around so that no one else had to encounter the message. Later that evening, they filed the report. 

“I wasn’t familiar with the reporting procedure but remembered hearing that there was a place to report these things when the incident at Young Hall happened, so I looked into my emails from when that happened and found the form,” the witness said. 

The witness is referring to the campus-wide email sent out by Dean of Students Jake Gilbertson on Oct. 10, 2023. Following the homophobic vandalism found at Young Hall, Gilbertson instructed students to report incidents through the form. The Point asked about the results of that investigation, but Friberg did not include an answer to this question in her email response.

The Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) is made up of the following University personnel: 

  • Mary Paul, vice president for Student Life and Formation
  • Danielle Brown Friberg, Title IX coordinator
  • Jake Gilbertson, dean of students
  • Melanie Wolf, associate dean of student care and engagement
  • Esteban Trujillo, university chaplain
  • Cory Lozano, assistant director of Public Safety
  • Samara Timms, assistant vice president of Human Resources
  • April Cordero, dean of educational effectiveness
  • Ben Coleman, director of clinical training

After the witness filed the report, Friberg scheduled a time to talk with the witness. 

According to PLNU’s Director of Communications Lora Fleming, Friberg met with the student on Monday, Jan. 29 to review video footage and also spoke with Public Safety Director Mark Ryan. 

Ryan declined to comment on the meeting. 

“The investigation requires strict confidentiality to ensure its integrity,” Ryan said via email. “This is not a DPS Investigation, but we are assisting where we can.” 

On Jan. 30, faculty of the Literature, Journalism, Writing and Languages (LJWL) department, housed in Bond Academic Center (BAC), received an email from LJWL department assistant Madi Bucci, who also CC’d Friberg. The email called on faculty to assist in identifying 17 potential suspects and witnesses through an attached document containing screenshots of video footage. 

Ryan said that he has no information about the email described, but that “when DPS collaborates with investigators from entities like the University, [the San Diego Police Department (SDPD)] and others in relation to crimes or incidents involving DPS video, the objective is to ultimately identify and ensure accountability for individuals involved in those actions.” 

When reports reach the BIRT, the group looks at details to help them decide how the investigation will happen.

“When the Bias Incident Response Team (BRIT) receives a report, we review it to determine the appropriate next steps which can vary depending on the type of incident and parties involved,” Friberg said via email. “When there is an investigation required, we typically first meet with the reporting and/or impacted party to get more information. Then we work on gathering other evidence such as witness statements, surveillance footage, documentary evidence (like text messages or emails), and any other relevant information. Oftentimes when it involves students, we work collaboratively with Student Conduct. When it involves faculty or staff, we work collaboratively with Human Resources and the appropriate administrators. In addition to conducting an investigation, BIRT also tries to identify ways that the University might need to provide support to individuals or to the community.”

The team also designates an appropriate member of personnel to take the lead depending on their availability in addition to the type of incident and type of people involved, according to Friberg.  

“In this particular case, the team identified that it would be appropriate for Jake Gilbertson, dean of students, Cory Lozano, assistant director of Public Safety, and Danielle Friberg, Title IX coordinator to investigate the report,” Friberg said. “Additionally, the BIRT engaged with Walter Augustine, associate vice president for diversity and belonging, and Maya Walker, director of multicultural services, to assist with providing a response and supportive measures to students impacted by the incident.”

Augustine said via email that his office will be sending a message to the campus community, which includes the following excerpt:

“We know that the vast majority of PLNU students, staff and faculty genuinely want to be Christ-centered community members who love, value and respect others. Incidents like this can make us question the strength of our bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. However, how we collectively respond to racism and how we care for those who are hurt and impacted by racist acts truly matters.”

The racist message in the BAC bathroom is an open investigation, and Friberg asked that information regarding this incident or other incidents of this nature be directed to the BIRT. It remains unknown as to if the person responsible for the racist message is a part of the university.

According to Friberg, the university contacts SDPD “when we suspect that the reported incident meets the threshold of a hate crime.” In this case, SDPD was not called. 

“I want to express grief for such a disturbing message on a campus that should be shaped by love,” the witness said. “I also want to say that this event does not accurately reflect the students of Point Loma and that God’s sovereignty ultimately reigns on campus and everywhere else, even when we encounter hateful messages.”

Although photo evidence was submitted, The Point Editorial Staff has decided not to include it in our reporting in an effort to minimize harm. Due to the fact that the photo captures a message and not an action, we decided it was not imperative to the reporting of this story. While we hope that attention is drawn to this article to inform and update our community, we chose not to provoke interest through a hurtful image.

Author

%d bloggers like this: