The day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, student Iyla Driggs cited King’s words and invoked the spirit of the slain civil rights leader as she spoke to demonstrators at Framingham State University.
“Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,’ ” Driggs, 20, said. “I also hope that that day will come.”
Students said they marched to denounce hatred, racism, and ignorance on campus. Many were angry that no one has been held accountable for six incidents of racism that occurred at several residence halls between October and December of last year.
Jordan Privette-Jackson, 20, a business management major, found a racial slur scrawled on his door.
“As human beings, we should be disgusted and ashamed by the lack of unity within our people,” Privette-Jackson said. “This is ridiculous that we pay thousands of dollars to come to this school and we have to face racism every day. I came here for an education. I didn’t come here to be hated.”
The university is offering a $5,000 reward for information on who is responsible, spokesman Daniel Magazu said. The culprit or culprits will be expelled and will be subject to criminal charges.
School officials said they had consulted with the Middlesex district attorney’s office, which told them that, with a lack of leads, there’s not much that can be done. The school has sought help from both the FBI and the State Police in analyzing the handwriting on the notes.
Framingham State president Javier Cevallos wrote on Facebook, “I wish I could guarantee that there will not be additional incidents of racism moving forward, but I cannot. We must acknowledge that structural racism remains prevalent in our institutions and can foster individual racist acts, but we can resist it by reaffirming the University’s commitment to our core values.”
He also said the school administration was committed “to providing the necessary resources to ensure that students feel safe on campus and ensure that their thoughts and ideas for addressing these incidents are being heard.”
Magazu said the school has installed additional security cameras on campus, increased police and residence life staff patrols, held public meetings with students, and will hold new anti-bias training for incoming students. The school will also conduct a racial climate survey in March.
But Driggs said students still are concerned their complaints are falling on deaf ears. They want more diverse faculty to be hired, a camera in every dorm and stairwell, and a new African-American studies major and minor.
“After [the incidents] kept happening, they felt discouraged, they felt unsafe, and they felt like, ‘Where do I belong? Why should I even come here? Why should I have to go through this?’ ” Driggs said.
Organizers said 100 people attended. They chanted “Black Lives Matter!” and “Whose school? Our school!”
“This is where these incidents first happened,” Driggs told dozens of protesters, speaking through a megaphone outside of Larned Hall. “Let’s get this coward out of here. He doesn’t belong in our school.”
The crowd included faculty, students from the Black Student Union and Latinos United in Action, and members of Black Lives Matter Cambridge.
“Everyone just needs to stick together and comfort each other,” said junior Destinee Morris, 21, president of the Black Student Union. “Because there’s a lot of people that don’t check in on their friends. Some people are really affected by the hate crimes that happened. Just be loving.”
Months ago, students reached out to Monica Cannon-Grant, founder of the group Violence in Boston, among others, to talk about issues on campus.
“Keep pushing, keep fighting, don’t stop,” Cannon-Grant told the crowd. “Don’t allow anyone to silence your story. Be vocal. Open your mouth. If it happens to you, lean on your friends.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.