A supposed hate crime at Maryland’s Salisbury University turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by Black students, school officials said this week.
“I can confirm two students have been identified and are both African American,” English associate professor James King told The Flyer, the school’s student newspaper.
On April 10, an image with a racist connotation was found on a whiteboard in the school’s Blackwell library. The drawing was that of a stick figure crying while being lynched alongside a racist slur and the hashtag #whitepower. The image appeared two days after the university’s “Stop Hatin” week, a seven-day effort to promote diversity and inclusion on the Eastern Shore campus.
The image prompted both an investigation by campus police and outrage.
“So this is what we as students have to deal with @SalisburyU Might as well call it ‘DIE’versity,” Matt Jackson, an activist with the school’s chapter of the NAACP, tweeted via the handle @MattJackDC on April 10.
Jackson has since revised—if not entirely changed—his rhetoric, tweeting on April 27: “We have zero tolerance 4 hate or racism regardless of gender or race. We’ve worked too hard to stop now.”
He also said the incident should not negate the very real Black struggle against racism nor their efforts to create a more inclusive culture and environment on the campus.
“The main problem…was that someone thought it was a joke,” he told Delmarva Now. “(It was) an act of immaturity.”
Despite the outcome of the investigation, the Salisbury University Police Department—in consultation with the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office—has decided to not file criminal charges at this time, according to Delmarva Now.
The students, however, could face disciplinary actions from the university.
“Regardless of who created the drawing, we find such actions demeaning to all members of the campus community and against our core values,” Dane Foust, vice president of Student Affairs, said in a statement provided to Delmarva Now.
“The University has a student hearing process which enforces its student code of conduct,” Foust added in a statement to The Flyer. “Consequences will depend on the outcome of the investigation.”
According to the school’s latest diversity report, as of fall 2014, minority students comprised 25 percent of the university’s student body, a total of 2,156 of 8,770 enrolled students.