Bias incidents at NU lead to tougher law

Amy Hamblin

Northwestern students, faculty and administrators have begun to reassess the damage a former student created by falsely reporting hate crimes last year. But many acknowledge that this incident also led to better state anti-hate crime laws and a more united NU community.

This summer Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill that stiffens the penalties for hate crimes that occur on college campuses. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-16th) authored the bill in response to several incidents of bias on NU’s campus more than a year ago.

“Any act of hate in an area reserved for learning, understanding and diversity takes on additional meaning,” said Daniel Elbaum, counsel for the Anti-Defamation League. “(The new law) sends a message that this is taken more seriously and is more severe.”

Elbaum explained that hate crimes occurring on college campuses not only attack an individual person but also also try to shatter the harmony of the various ethnic and religious groups.

Schools and college campuses are the third likeliest place for hate crimes to occur, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. NU Law School Prof. Dorothy Roberts said college campuses have an almost unparalleled diversity that many students aren’t used to.

“When they are exposed to that new diversity, they may lash out with violence or harassment,” she said, explaining most incidents of bias are as subtle as a quip made under someone’s breath about ethnicity.

Sometimes students embittered about affirmative action policies at some colleges react by attacking minority groups on campus, Roberts added.

Incidents of bias haven’t been the only concern at NU — former Communication freshman Jaime A. Saide fabricated two separate hate crimes last November, raising new questions and concerns about how to approach the issue of hate.

Although most people agree that what Saide, better known as Xander, did was appalling, some say the incident at least raised awareness about the issue.

Lupita Temiquel, who was the acting director of the Hispanic/Latino Student Services at the time, said her initial reaction was shock and disappointment, but then she decided to make something positive come from the situation.

“You go into your proactive mode — how can you get through this? How can you make students safer?” Temiquel said. “It brought students together to unite.”

However, Roberts, the law professor, said she worries people might be skeptical now when a person reports a hate crime.

“I know there are people who don’t understand the harm done by hate crimes,” Roberts said. “It’s unfortunate when people falsely report them because it helps to trivialize hate crimes.”

But she admitted that Saide’s false allegations, as an isolated incident, probably won’t strip all legitimacy from the issue. More than anything, Roberts said students and schools need to focus on why people are lashing out in the first place.

“In conjunction with legal penalties, there has to be public education and other kinds of social changes that reduce the social inequities that help to perpetuate bias,” Roberts said.

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]

FACING THE HATE

How the university was affected by acts of hate on the Evanston Campus in the past year

Feb. 11, 2003

Graffiti and racial slurs targeting black students are found scrawled on six doors in Ayers College of Commerce and Industry.

Feb. 12, 2003

A swastika is found carved onto a third-floor stairwell door in McCulloch Hall.

Feb. 17, 2003

A swastika is found on the whiteboard of two Jewish students living in Bobb Hall. They kept a picture of the Israeli flag on their door, which police say may have made them a target.

Feb. 24, 2003

A student makes a ?No Place for Hate? poster in South Mid-Quads say “One Place for Hate?” with a swastika in the “O” and flames surrounding “hate.” He says it is not hate speech.

May 27, 2003

Two racial epithets targeted at black students are found in CCI. In addition to the epithets, a picture of a man with a rope around his neck, as if he were being lynched, is found on a student?s door.

Oct. 30, 2003

A swastika is found penciled in a main stairwell at Willard Residential College. University Police say they are not considering the event a hate crime because it was not directed at anyone.

Nov. 4, 2003

Jaime A. Saide, better known as Xander, reports that racial slurs directed against Latino students were found near his room in Chapin Residential College. Because it alluded to a threat of violence and specifically targeted a student, the epithet is classified as a ?hate crime.?

Nov. 8-9, 2003

A three-foot swastika and anti-Semitic epithet are found on the side of Norris University Center; a similar swastika and epithet are on Leverone Hall. Saide tells police he was held at knifepoint on Nov. 8, but is arrested Nov. 17 for fabricating both incidents.