EDITORIAL: Lies don’t change importance of united campus

He lied to all of us.

But when Communication freshman Xander Saide concocted two hate crimes, he went beyond simply fabricating events. He exploited and manipulated the Northwestern community at one of its most vulnerable moments.

As time elapses we’ll respond as we did when we believed Saide’s story to be true: by learning from what happened and enacting positive changes. But if any good comes from Saide’s hoax, he deserves no credit.

Saide told police the words “Die Spic” were written near his dorm room Nov. 4. Four days later, he said, someone grabbed him on the street and put a knife to his throat, whispering, “Spic, we didn’t run away this time.” When confessing that neither incident occurred, Saide told police his goal was to inspire a campus dialogue on race relations.

We’ll probably never know whether this reason or a sick need for attention truly motivated Saide — and frankly it doesn’t matter. His actions are no less destructive because they were rooted in noble intentions. He is not a martyr for his causes. In fact Saide hurt the causes he said he was trying to help, causes championed so passionately by students victimized by real incidents of bias on campus.

Saide also provided an easy example for those people who react skeptically to all hate crimes to cite when defending their prejudices. He did nothing but give them more fuel for their convictions.

Even though the protest at The Rock Nov. 12 prominently featured Saide and his fabricated stories, the event still was an example of the best NU has to offer. The value of the rally had nothing to do with an individual incident. It instead illustrated that students are united and committed to taking back control of their school. No made-up story will ever change or detract from that.

Students must not let one misguided individual slow the real progress they were making. If anything they should fight harder to prove it doesn’t take such an outrageous, terrible incident to inspire a real campus dialogue. Campus leaders should be courageous and expand that dialogue beyond racism to race in general. Though the rally at The Rock was reactionary, it was a necessary response. But for any long-term effects to be felt at NU, dialogue must be a constant, underlying aspect of life on campus.

We learned the lesson painfully, but this quarter has shown that race is a critical part of one’s identity that can’t be ignored. Racism and hate crimes do exist — both in the real world and at NU. The three-foot swastika on the side of Norris University Center was not a lie. And it is because of this incident and others like it — not Saide — that real questions are finally being raised.

These are questions bigger than any one individual, addressing institutional problems. They cannot be fixed in a single editorial, conference or rally — but at least they’re finally being asked. Student groups’ original responses to the incidents of bias on campus still are appropriate and absolutely necessary. Groups such as For Members Only and the Multiethnic InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are offering programming aimed at fostering communication among students and improving diversity. These efforts must not be tainted or forgotten in the wake of these latest developments.

Saide’s lies compounded the damage done by the legitimate racist acts on campus, but NU will heal in time — ultimately becoming stronger than it was to begin with. No matter what Saide’s actions ultimately accomplish, though, it wasn’t worth it. His lies cost too much.