2008-11-20 / Local & State

Racial Incident Prompts Discipline At College

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - La Salle University has disciplined a fraternity and suspended several students after an off-campus fight in which several black students said they were assaulted and subjected to racial slurs that drew on the presidential election.

A small number of students have been placed on interim suspension and others also face discipline for an incident last Sunday that started at a house primarily occupied by Phi Gamma Delta members and continued about a block away, said Joseph J. Cicala, dean of students.

Cicala said the fraternity was suspended because the investigation revealed it may have played a role. He declined to elaborate, but said the students and the fraternity face disciplinary hearings.

Other colleges in Pennsylvania and across the country have reported similar incidents in the weeks following President-elect Barack Obama's victory.

In separate incidents at Lehigh University, two black students said they heard racial slurs yelled from cars. A third student reported being called an "ignorant black (expletive)'' when she was talking to a friend about Obama's victory.

At St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, racially charged graffiti was found in a campus classroom on Oct. 29. Another campus meeting was held this week following the discovery of the drawing of a stick figure in a noose at McShain Hall, a dormitory and classroom building.

"There have been hundreds and hundreds of these incidents around the country, everything from Barack Obama effigies hung from nooses, to racist comments posted on various Web sites to really threatening emails,'' said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

The Montgomery, Ala.-based organization said increasing numbers of nonwhite immigrants, a rising minority population, the sagging economy and unemployment all are factors.

"Add to all that the election of a black man to the White House. What we're seeing is kind of a perfect storm,'' he said.

The NAACP reported an increase in complaints, but the Justice Department and the Commission on Civil Rights reported no increase since the election.

"The only surprising part about it all is that it's happening on college campuses,'' said Melissa Harris- Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African American studies at Princeton University.

Younger people in general are typically viewed as more racially tolerant, having grown up in a more integrated society, she said.

"On the other hand,'' she added, "young people lack impulse control, drink heavily and stand around outside.''

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