Last night, Colgate University, a private liberal arts college in upstate New York, was on lockdown for hours following reports of an “armed person” on campus. Except the person was an unarmed black freshman holding a glue gun that he was using for an art project.
Over the course of three hours Monday night, campus security and police responded to witness accounts of an individual carrying a “weapon,” which played out in a series of Tweets updating the community amid false rumors of multiple gunmen and a suicide, according to HuffPost.
As soon as the situation was deemed safe (and a bit ridiculous), many were quick to point out that it was also pretty fucked up and racist. Colgate—which is 67% white and just over 5% black—was shut down for hours because a black student had the gall to hold a hot glue gun. It’s a pretty cut-and-dry case of racial profiling (and kind of inaccurate racial profiling, seeing as more than 60% of mass shootings are carried out by white men).
In a statement, Brian W. Casey, president of Colgate explained the situation, calling it “a profound error,” and directly addressing the role of racial bias in the initial reports:
It is important that we understand the role that implicit racial bias had in the initial reporting of and responses to the events of last night. I want to make sure we speak with those who made and received the initial report to understand the role this played.
More egregiously, perhaps, was the effect profiling had on the response of safety officers and other University offices to these events. In addition, communication and enforcement steps were taken that, I believe, confused and harmed this campus and our students.
He went on to announce that he had asked the campus safety director to take administrative leave, effective immediately, while the school reviewed the events from Monday night. It should be interesting to see just how this unfolds, but mostly it’s a relief that the student who was the victim of the profiling is safe.