Offensive Racial Image Condemned by Ball State Students, Leaders

Image from BSU Campus that made the rounds on Twitter.

Stick figure on smart board at Letterman building called senseless, disrespectful

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - A racist image that appeared on a digital screen in the Letterman Building at Ball State University this month drew condemnation and investigation from campus officials and students. 

"This doesn't represent us in any way as an institution," said Tony Proudfoot, spokesman for Ball State. "This appears to be a senseless act by an individual."

Proudfoot was referring to an image of a stick figure with a noose around his neck with an arrow pointing from the word black. That image appeared on a smart board in the telecommunications building on Jan.16, days before Unity Week on campus.

The image was deleted moments after it appeared, but someone managed to capture an image on their camera. Ball State notified city government, including Muncie police and Muncie's Human Rights Commission. Student groups immediately reacted by condemning the picture.

Yvonne Thompson, HRC director, said the image was blatantly racist and she was glad the university reported the incident for investigation. No suspect has been identified.

Proudfoot said student affairs and academic staff also worked to identify educational and programming opportunities to learn and grow from the incident.

Calling the behavior unacceptable, Proudfoot said the university embraced inclusion and diversity.

"We want to maintain and even enhance a culture where everyone is welcome and perspectives from all backgrounds are respected and valued," he said.

The university made great strides in recent years to increase diversity in the student body. In 2006, 8.6 percent of the freshman class was comprised of those from underrepresented minority populations.

This year, that number was 15.9 percent, and BS President JoAnn Gora announced more goals in the university's strategic plan during a Dr. Martin Luther King JR. breakfast days after the incident.

Gora also made it clear at that event that the university was a welcome place for everyone while making diversity a top priority.

The Student Government Association also condemned the act as well as the Black Student Association on campus.

In a statement, Chloe Anagnos, SGA president, said the group was sad to learn of the disrespect shown to African American students.

"The depicted image does not reflect the views of the greater Ball State community or the Student Government Association," she said in the statement.

An almost 100 percent increase in enrollment of underrepresented minorities since 2008 shows the commitment to inclusion and diversity, Anagnos added.

BSA met this week to discuss the incident and took action to get more people involved investigating incidents of bias and encouraging diversity, according to a statement released by Kirsten Davenport, BSA vice president.

 "Our feeling is that the drawing was an act motivated by hostility to members of a group based on color, creed, gender or sexual orientation," according to the statement. "Members of the black community at Ball State were displeased that the university did not notify students of this incident."

The image and lack of media coverage outside of a student radio report by WCRD has been the subject of posts and tweets during the past week.

 An ad hoc committee of 11 student black leaders will gather to address how the university addresses issues of diversity, handling reports of bias and the black student experience.

The Ball State chapter of the National Advancement of Colored People, the Black Graduate Student Alliance and Ball State National Pan-Hellenic Council also signed off on the statement.