Possible hate crimes reported at Warren Wilson

Julie Ball
The Asheville Citizen-Times

Warren Wilson College and local authorities are looking into what are described in an email to the campus community as “possible hate crimes” at the school.

Students and staff met Dec. 8 to discuss the incidents. The meeting was not open to the media, according to Kyle McCurry, director of media relations for Warren Wilson.

On Dec. 12, the college was still interviewing students and checking door access records, class rosters, campus intranet searches and college Facebook queries, said Paul Perrine, dean of students. It is offering a monetary reward for information that leads to identifying the responsible person, he said. That person could face a range of sanctions, including intervention, suspension, and expulsion.

A priority for the college is making sure students are “encouraged to discuss the way they feel about the campus, whether they feel safe or not,” McCurry said. He said the college takes “what we hear in these meetings to heart.”

Emails to the students and staff outline the incidents, which began last month.

A computer belonging to a student of color was stolen Nov. 22 and later left outside the campus Public Safety office in a plastic shopping bag. The computer “had been broken in many pieces,” according to the email to the campus community.

In another incident, a tote bag was stolen from a women’s restroom. “The bag contained a final senior project and belonged to another student of color,” according to the email from Paul Perrine, dean of students at Warren Wilson.

The project was later found torn into pieces inside a shopping bag. “The bag contained one piece of crumpled paper with a racial slur written in black marker,” the email stated.

Another incident that officials say may be related involved the theft of a laptop and other items from the room of a transgender student.

A Dec. 1 email described a fourth incident involving a student of Native American descent. A paper was left in the student’s room with the word “Trump” on one side and the words “back to the rez” on the other side.

In the initial email to the college community, Perrine urged anyone with information to come forward and also stressed that “targeting individuals because of their race, gender identity/expression or sexual identity is a hate crime and will be treated as such.”

Warren Wilson College President Steven L. Solnick, in an email to the campus community, also stressed that the college has “zero tolerance for any hate crimes on this campus.”

“Events of the last few weeks have reminded us all that the struggle against bigotry and discrimination will be a long one, and that even within our own campus community there are individuals prepared to deploy the symbols and rhetoric of hate to divide us. We must not allow that to happen,” Solnick wrote.

He also urged students to come forward if they have information and said the college continues “to relentlessly investigate” the incidents described in the campus-wide emails.