Dear Campus Community,
I wrote to you after recent racist vandalism and hate-filled slurs appeared on campus. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide an update on activities since those incidents.
As many of you may have seen through an emailed campus advisory and media reports, a Western student was arrested by University Police on Sunday, November 25, 2018 in connection with the recent vandalism. As interim measures, the student, a resident of Western’s Birnam Wood apartment community on campus, was trespassed from all university housing and dining halls, and can only be on campus to attend classes or scheduled appointments.
I know that students, faculty, staff, parents and many other members of our community are rightly concerned about this situation. Let me assure you that we are doing everything in our power to protect those most vulnerable in our community, while adhering to due process requirements.
The student is now facing criminal charges, including second-degree burglary, a felony, and malicious mischief, a gross misdemeanor. University Police made an arrest on Sunday, November 25, 2018, as soon as probable cause was developed for a crime and the student returned to Bellingham from the Thanksgiving Break.
Additional follow up police interviews were necessary to establish probable cause for the specific crime of malicious harassment, a felony, which is the state’s hate crime statute. As a result of those interviews, University Police submitted a statement of probable cause for the additional charge of malicious harassment to the Whatcom County Prosecutor's Office on November 27, 2018 for their review and consideration. The Whatcom County Prosecutor's Office is responsible for making all charging decisions, including for the crime of malicious harassment.
While that process through criminal court continues, the student is also required to go through the University’s student conduct process. Residence hall students who violate housing policies, in the most serious situations, are subject to eviction from on-campus housing. In addition, the University’s Equal Opportunity Office investigates incidents of bias. Those processes can result in sanctions including suspension or expulsion for very serious misconduct.
Due to the serious consequences that can result from these processes, adequate due process is required, including notice and deadlines. These take time but in egregious situations the university and the criminal court moves as swiftly as possible, consistent with fair due process.
The feelings of anxiety, anger and disappointment that arise from such incidents are understandable, but we want to make sure that hateful acts never lead to additional acts of hate. I ask, please, that all of us act with calm and care for those around us after such incidents occur on campus.
University Police and other University officials have reached out to groups specifically targeted with racist slurs and homophobic vandalism. University Police and University Residences staff have also held meetings in affected residence halls. These conversations will continue and I look forward to keeping you informed of upcoming opportunities for continued community dialogue and engagement on these issues.
I welcome your input and suggestions at President@wwu.edu about how we as a community, working together, can address situations like these.
We must ensure that those who are found to have violated our policies and codes of conduct face effective sanctions that demonstrate that hate has no place at Western. I believe that the greatest thing we can do to combat the rise in expressions of hate and racism, an ugliness that is sweeping our community, state and nation, is to join forces in fighting hate with goodness, with dialogue, with education and in supporting those among us who are especially vulnerable. There is power in numbers, and I believe we are a community in which positive voices can be more impactful than the negative.