Mysterious 'hate speech' incident stirs Calif. campus

From the Sacramento Bee

By Cathy Locke

Officials at California State University, Sacramento, are investigating an incident involving written hate speech directed at the Muslim community on campus.

In a written message to students, faculty and staff members Wednesday, CSUS President Robert S. Nelsen said, “I was heartbroken and angered to learn that this happened on our campus …We are investigating and reviewing video footage of the area. We will not tolerate hateful and racist behavior on this campus, and we will pursue sanctions against those who are identified.”

Craig Koscho, a university spokesman, said the message was found near the University Union, but he said he could not discuss the form or content of the message. Koscho said campus police are investigating the incident.

Basim Elkarra, director of the Council on American Islamic Relations in Sacramento, said the incident occurred Wednesday. This is the first week of the spring semester at Sac State and a number student groups had information tables with sign-up sheets in the quad near the University Union. He said members of the Muslim Student Association had left a sign-up sheet on their table while they were in class and when they returned, they found someone had left the written message.

Elkarra said he thinks university officials have taken appropriate action in addressing the issue. “We’re pretty impressed that the president was proactive,” he said.

Elkarra said he views the incident as a teaching opportunity to let people know more about the Muslim community.

The Muslim Student Association issued a statement Monday night saying, “We appreciate the response by President Nelson and school faculty. We don’t believe this incident reflects our student body. We are a campus that celebrates our diversity. The Muslim community is facing challenges during this election season and we plan to hold educational programs to clarify misconceptions and have frank conversations.”

Nelsen in his letter said, “I am proud of those who came forward to report this hateful act, and I encourage you to please do the same if you ever see, hear, or experience anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe.”

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