Racial tensions soured jubilation on the Baylor University campus Tuesday night in response to the naming of Barack Obama as president-elect. A rope tied in the shape of a noose was spotted in a tree on campus and Obama campaign signs were burned in the Brooks Village fire pit. Verbal altercations also arose.
These acts were disgusting and condemnable. While the university spoke out against the acts, more must be done by university officials and students to raise awareness of racial tension at our university and across the nation. Taking precautions against further racial disputes cannot be overdone.
Interim President David Garland issued a statement Wednesday rebuking the acts.
"These events are deeply disturbing to us and are antithetical to the mission of Baylor University," the statement reads. "We categorically denounce and will not tolerate racist acts of any kind on our campus."
The university also formed the Bias Motivated Intent Support Team, a committee established as an intermediary between students and authorities if they feel they have been discriminated against. The committee, which will be available for students starting today, wasn't planned to officially launch until next semester, but the unfortunate events of Election Day pushed committee members to start serving students immediately.
The creation of this organization is long overdue. Last spring, a student who recently converted to the Jewish faith found a Swastika drawn on the wall next to his dorm room. Why wasn't this committee established then? Why didn't such a committee take shape after an unofficial Sigma Alpha Epsilon ghetto theme party infuriated black students or after a Muslim woman was attacked on Baylor's campus in April 2006?
It's as if the committee was only quickly thrown together after Tuesday night's incident attracted such negative attention nationwide. Is this simply a way for university officials to project to horrified students, alumni and citizens across America that necessary steps are being taken to solve this problem? It seems a little like damage control. Baylor should have taken proactive measures years ago to foster healthy relations among students. What the university is doing now is retroactive, but at this point, it's the best they can do.
As for the individuals resposible for hanging the noose, if they are students, they should face the university sanction of expulsion in addition to criminal charges. The noose citing has understandably hit Waco hard, considering that this city is still remembered for its brutal lynchings such as the "Waco Horror" of 1916 when a 17-year-old male was brutally burned, mutilated and hanged outside of the McLennan County Courthouse.
Events that occurred on campus Tuesday night were a painful reminder that racism still exists.
Perhaps those who sang the praises of the race neutrality of young voters shortly after Obama won gave our generation too much credit. While incidences on Baylor's campus were presumably sparked by just a few students, it reflects poorly on our entire generation and more specifically on our Christian university. At a Christian university, we should answer to a higher morality, one that says we are all family and should treat others the way we want to be treated. Racism has no place at Baylor University.
It's important to note that racial confrontations in response to the election have not occurred solely at Baylor. Last week, a life-sized effigy of Obama was discovered hanging in a tree at the University of Kentucky. At Middle Tennessee State University, a pumpkin bearing Obama's face was stabbed and covered in red paint. At North Caroline State University, negative Obama messages were written in the "Free Expression" tunne.
Although late, let's hope that the formation of the Bias Motivated Intent Support Team will deflect future intolerance on our campus and that those responsible for hanging the noose will be dealt with justly.