Native American students at South Dakota State University got an ugly surprise in one of the Brown Hall dormitory men’s bathrooms on Friday, September 28 when they saw the message “Praire [sic] [N-word], Go back to the Rez!”
The message, written in permanent marker, also contained two room numbers, one of which belongs to American Indian students, reported Native News Network.
The bathroom that was damaged is a public restroom on the first floor of the 380-resident dormitory.
“I was outraged. I was speechless. I was flabbergasted. It blew my mind seeing that,” a Lakota student from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation told the Native News Network. The student chose to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “I chose this school because it was far enough from home and still close enough to home.”
Native News said that by Monday, the racist message had been covered by spray paint.
Michael Lockrem, director of university relations, told ICTMN there was an ongoing investigation into the incident but wouldn’t comment further.
“The University Police Department is investigating this incident. South Dakota State University does not condone or tolerate expressions of racial harassment. The university is committed to the affirmation and appreciation of all protected classes, including racial, ethnic, religious or sexual identities, and the belief that all of its members are part of a larger community,” reads the official university statement. “University leadership regards this recent incident as inconsistent with its values and contrary to diversity and intercultural advancement.”
Lockrem said that since the incident the American Indian Education and Cultural Center has been meeting with students and officials on campus to go over shared concerns and to keep the dialogue open.
“We are sensitive to student’s positions and their needs,” he said. When asked if there had been other incidents involving racism on the campus, Lockrem said: “To the best of my knowledge there have been no other incidents.”
There were 211 American Indian and Alaska Native students enrolled in the fall 2010 semester out of 12,816 total students at South Dakota State University.