Friday, January 22, 1999

Two black students charged in racial vandalism at Miami

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Two black Miami University students, including the leader of an African-American campus group, were charged Thursday for allegedly posting racist messages supporting the Ku Klux Klan in October at the college's black learning center.

        Nathaniel Snow, 22, of College Hill and president of the Black Student Action Association, and Brad M. Allen, 21, of suburban Cleveland were charged with criminal mischief and criminal trespassing, university police said.

        If convicted on both counts, each could face up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines.

        The men withdrew from the university Wednesday after officials confronted them with lab results from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation linking them to the Oct. 30 incident.

        A staff member that night entered the Center for Black Culture and Learning on campus and found several photocopied fliers of crudely drawn pictures, including an African-American being hanged.

        Words on four computer screen-savers were changed to include racist messages. The fliers also had anti-homosexual messages.

        “It was the sort of thing that you gasp when you saw it,” Dick Nault, Miami's dean of students, said Thursday.

        State lab experts matched fingerprints lifted from the fliers to Messrs. Snow and Allen, said Cathryn House, university safety director and chief of police.

Black students protest at Miami U. Nov. 11, 1998
7 arrested in protest at Miami Nov. 12, 1998
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        The racial incident sparked a Nov. 10 protest by 100 students, most of them black, who joined arms and stopped traffic at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Ohio 73. A smaller protest the next day resulted in the arrest of seven students, including Mr. Allen, a junior from Shaker Heights.

        On the day of the Nov. 11 arrests, Mr. Snow, a senior in the School of Education and Allied Professions, met with school President James C. Garland to discuss ways to improve race relations at the predominantly white campus of 16,000 students.

        The arrests of the two men Thursday shocked and disappointed school officials and students.

        “I'm very disappointed in those two individuals, and no one, myself included, likes to be lied to,” Dr. Garland said. “On the other hand, it's important to realize this was an isolated incident and we should not generalize from it.”

        Messrs. Snow and Allen could not be reached for comment. They were released on their own recognizance and are to appear in Butler County Area One Court on Jan. 29 for a preliminary hearing.

        Police do not think others were involved in the incident, Chief House said. Police do not know whether the intruders got into the center through windows or hid before closing time because there were no signs of breaking and entering.

        Some African-American students involved in the November protests said Thursday they felt betrayed by the pair's alleged actions. Many want to know how two black students could post the fliers, especially ones disparaging African Americans and supporting the Ku Klux Klan.

        Much of the scrutiny was directed at Mr. Snow, who told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Nov. 11 that his meeting with Dr. Garland “went well. It was a first step.”

        “I think ... Nathaniel Snow felt as though his actions would shed light on the questions of diversity and tolerance and race,” said Nathan Estep, president of the Miami's Associated Student Government. “Why he thought this avenue was best or one to pursue, I cannot fathom.”

        Mr. Estep is an African American from Columbus who spoke out against the street protests in November.

        While the arrests are “heartbreaking” news, Mr. Estep hopes the news will not worsen race relations on the Oxford campus.

        “Clearly, there may be the perception and stereotypes other people will hold about African Americans that could very well set us back,” he said. “But individuals of goodwill will see these are actions of two students and recognize that one or two students cannot speak for an entire race.”

        Miami and Oxford are not strangers to strained race relations.

        A year ago, a black sophomore was beaten with a baseball bat in Oxford by two men who yelled racial and anti-gay slurs during the attack.

        In 1997, a black student received a spate of harassing phone calls that caused the Black Action Movement to seize control of Warfield Hall, an administration building, for several hours.

        Ten days after the November rally, Dr. Garland proposed a wide-ranging diversity program that included recruiting more minority students and hiring more minority staff.

        Minority enrollment at Miami has more than doubled in the past decade. There were 1,209 minority students enrolled for the 1998-99 school year, up from 637 students 10 years earlier.

        However, Miami ranks low among Ohio colleges in percentage of minority students. Of the school's 16,200 students, 7.5 percent are minorities.

        Carlos Edwards, a black academic adviser in the College of Arts and Science, said he has cautioned students not to have a “knee-jerk” reaction to news of the arrests.

        “It is especially sad for African Americans, and especially for the two who were arrested,” Mr. Edwards said. Kate Klimas, a white junior at the university, said she has more questions than comments.

        “Why would anybody want to do something like this and make things worse than they already are?” Ms. Klimas said.

        However, other students said they thought the men were being set up.

        “I know both of the students very well, they would never do something like this,” said Vaughnetta Bailey, a black junior from Cincinnati.

        She said if there were a protest on their behalf, she would join.

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