Student confesses to racial incident in residence hall

Last semester, an incident in Harris Hall in which two students were repeatedly disturbed by knocks on their door and later found a note in the hall that read "You niggers will never sleep," received extensive news coverage on campus. President William M. Chace and Vice President and Dean for Campus Life Frances Lucas-Tauchar met with 200 students in Harris Hall to discuss the incident; students charged that Emory does not adequately respond to racial incidents or work hard enough to improve campus race relations. This message from Lucas-Tauchar tells how Campus Life and the Emory Police responded and the results of their investigation.

Last September President Chace notified the Emory community that an act of racial intolerance had occurred in an Emory residence hall. In his letter, he ordered those of us in Campus Life and the Emory Police to mobilize every resource to determine who had committed that act.

We have done just that, and I write to tell you that a student, when confronted by a Campus Life staff member, confessed to writing the note found in Harris Hall. The student is a friend of the victims, an African American male who lives in the same residence hall. He characterized his act as a prank between friends that quickly got out of hand. The young man told me that even though he knew that his act was creating a major community reaction, he became too frightened to come forward and hoped that the incident would blow over.

The Emory Police did an outstanding job investigating this case. They used surveillance techniques in the residence hall within the first week after the incident to monitor the victims' door and part of the hallway. Each resident was asked by the Emory Police to complete a written survey to give any information that they might have had about the incident.

A handwriting expert was hired to compare the writing on the original note found in the hallway to a suspicious note written on a wipe-off message board of some friends of the victims who lived in Harris Hall. The victims called the Emory Police when they thought the handwriting on the wipe-off message board looked like the writing on the note found outside their door. The handwriting expert found that the writing samples matched.

A forensic artist was then hired who did a composite sketch based on a witnesses' description of the person who had written the note on the message board. The picture led to the identification of the young man who later confessed.

President Chace also said in his letter to the Emory community that when the perpetrators were caught, they would have to confront Emory; this student has done so through student conduct proceedings. But because of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, better known as the Buckley Amendment, I cannot reveal the identity of the student or the specific sanctions he received through the student conduct proceedings, other than to say that eight individual sanctions were imposed.

Even though this incident turned out to be a joke among friends that was perceived by many to be racial harassment, it doesn't mean that we won't take future racial incidents seriously. We will continue to do all we can to protect the rights and dignity of each student. We will pursue any other acts of intolerance with this same vigor and determination.

Frances Lucas-Tauchar

Vice President, Campus Life