June 25, 1995 in Nation/World

Racism Drives Off Black Law Students

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Two black law students targeted by racial harassment at Gonzaga University last spring are now looking for new schools to attend.

They are among four black law students who received anonymous hate letters in April.

The harassment brought fear, mistrust and a sense of hostility, the victims said, and some of their grades slipped because of the bigotry.

“I don’t intend to graduate from Gonzaga,” said Coleen Stoudmire, who is spending her summer in Atlanta. “I don’t want my degree to read Gonzaga.”

Stoudmire and classmate Reggie Dunn said they want to transfer to other schools.

University officials say they are trying to stop the harassment and save Gonzaga from a racist image.

The FBI and Spokane police are investigating the racial threats. It is believed one or more students were involved, but no suspects have been identified, said U.S. Attorney James Connelly, himself a former GU instructor.

“We will not tolerate any form of harassment,” said Associate Dean William Clarke, adding the law school is not going to abandon its commitment to racial diversity.

Stoudmire blamed the administration and faculty for not taking an aggressive stance against racism early in the school year.

Almost from the first day of classes last year, Stoudmire said she encountered an undercurrent of racism among some first-year class members.

It started with jokes and comments, then escalated. One female student made no apologies for her beliefs, Stoudmire said.

“She let me know she don’t work with no niggers and she got up and moved,” Stoudmire said.

The woman making the racist comment also was implicated in a cheating incident during final exams last spring, Stoudmire said.

She said law school officials are minimizing the problem. After the hate letters, administrators said they believed only one student was involved.

Stoudmire said she believes as many as 50 of the 500 law school students hold racist beliefs, and she feels more than one student knows who delivered the letters.

“You can’t correct something when it’s hard for you to believe it’s there in the first place,” she said.

Even faculty members were hit by racist slurs.

Assistant Professor Lynn Daggett was called a “nigger lover” by a telephone caller after a seminar in which the speaker endorsed minorities on juries, Stoudmire said.

Clarke confirmed that a faculty member received a racially harassing call, but declined to talk about specifics.

Daggett couldn’t be reached for comment.

Before the hate letters arrived, law student Dunn said he was aware of the racism. He declined to elaborate on the details or his reaction, but confirmed he plans to transfer to another school.

“I’m trying to put all of this behind me,” said Dunn, a graduate of University of California at Davis. His father and uncle are Superior Court judges in Los Angeles.

“How can you study under those conditions?” asked his father, Judge Reginald Dunn.

The school’s other two black students are planning to return to classes when the school year starts later this summer.

The four were the only blacks in the school at the end of the academic year.

A fifth black law student, Tanya McLeod, left Gonzaga at the end of the first semester, Clarke said, but the dean did not give a reason.

According to Stoudmire, McLeod left because of the racism. She could not be reached for comment.

Despite the harassment, Gonzaga is continuing its efforts to enroll more minorities, Clarke said.

Last year, the incoming class was made up of 15 percent minorities, nearly double the number from the previous incoming law school class. This year’s incoming class should be made up of 15 percent minorities, too, Clarke said.

At least three more blacks are expected to enroll during the fall semester. All of the minority applicants were told about the racist incidents, Clarke said.

The racial harassment “makes it very difficult for us to achieve our diversity goals, but it makes us more determined,” he said.

He said Gonzaga is stepping up security for minorities, and faculty members have made themselves available for individual instruction. Counseling was also offered to the student victims.

Uri Clinton, a black law student and intern with the state appeals court in Spokane, said he understands why his classmates want to transfer.

A scholarship student, he said he won’t be leaving. He believes the school is doing everything it can.

“I’m not disappointed. The instruction is incredible,” he said.

Clinton said he never received face-to-face racist comments, but overheard racist jokes apparently told to embarrass and hurt him when he was nearby.

The students got the first hate letter on April Fool’s Day. It was hand-delivered to the mail slots and was signed by Law Students for a Pure America.

It asked for the help of racist Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler in “cleaning up” the law school.

That night, students disclosed the mail incident at an awards banquet known as the Heidelberg. State Supreme Court Justice Richard Guy and other prominent graduates were there.

Shocked by the mail, Guy wrote the law school condemning racial hatred and supporting the black students. “The truth is we want them and need them,” he wrote.

Student organizations called a rally on April 4 to condemn racism. It was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

The second letter was delivered April 9 and said “none of you lazy niggers will be graduating from this law school.”

The letter told the blacks to leave or they would become “martyrs.”

Clarke said similar racial incidents occurred at other universities last spring, including the University of California at Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall.

“Hate and racism know no intellectual boundaries,” Clarke said.

Juliana Repp, former president of the Multi-Cultural Law Caucus and a Native American, said she was never racially harassed at the school, but became alarmed when she saw black students being targeted.

One hate letter made a reference to “all inferior minorities.” That put every minority student on edge, Repp said.

Any law student who would write such malicious letters does not belong in the legal profession, she said. “Their behavior is not only morally and ethically wrong, it’s legally wrong, and they don’t belong in law school.”

Law school administrators learned about Stoudmire’s desire to withdraw after her telephone interview with the newspaper last week.

Clarke said he won’t try to stop her. “I am going to do everything I can to help her succeed as a lawyer,” he said. “I admire her courage more than I can express.”

Stoudmire said she probably will return to Gonzaga when classes resume in August because she doesn’t have time to be accepted to another school. Her grades suffered last semester, making it harder to transfer quickly, she said.

She said she is planning to finish her degree elsewhere.

Stoudmire said the racism went beyond the law school. She said she was followed by a woman while shopping. At restaurants, some waitresses told her they didn’t serve blacks, she said.

She came to Spokane because of the natural beauty and the reputation of the school, and was surprised to find racism part of the landscape.

She said she was never told by Gonzaga administrators of the university’s proximity to the white supremacists in North Idaho.

“I didn’t know where Hayden Lake was until I got there,” she said.

The Aryan Nations compound is at Hayden Lake.

Clarke and other school officials said it’s difficult to screen students for racist views because those who hold them are not going to admit them on an application.

“What’s come out of all of this is there’s a lot of hostility in that school,” Stoudmire said.

The school needs to get serious about cleaning up the problem, she said. “They let those people in, I didn’t.”

Two black law students targeted by racial harassment at Gonzaga University last spring are now looking for new schools to attend.

They are among four black law students who received anonymous hate letters in April.

The harassment brought fear, mistrust and a sense of hostility, the victims said, and some of their grades slipped because of the bigotry.

“I don’t intend to graduate from Gonzaga,” said Coleen Stoudmire, who is spending her summer in Atlanta, Ga. “I don’t want my degree to read Gonzaga.”

Stoudmire and classmate Reggie Dunn said they want to transfer to other schools.

University officials say they are trying to stop the harassment and save Gonzaga from a racist image.

The FBI and Spokane police are investigating the racial threats. It is believed one or more students were involved, but no suspects have been identified, said U.S. Attorney James Connelly, himself a former GU instructor.

“We will not tolerate any form of harassment,” said Associate Dean William Clarke, adding the law school is not going to abandon its commitment to racial diversity.

Stoudmire blamed the administration and faculty for not taking an aggressive stance against racism early in the school year.

Almost from the first day of classes last year, Stoudmire said she encountered an undercurrent of racism among some first-year class members.

It started with jokes and comments, then escalated. One female student made no apologies for her beliefs, Stoudmire said.

“She let me know she don’t work with no niggers and she got up and moved,” Stoudmire said.

The woman making the racist comment also was implicated in a cheating incident during final exams last spring, Stoudmire said.

She said law school officials are minimizing the problem. After the hate letters, administrators said they believed only one student was involved.

Stoudmire said she believes as many as 50 of the 500 law school students hold racist beliefs, and she feels more than one student knows who delivered the letters.

“You can’t correct something when it’s hard for you to believe it’s there in the first place,” she said.

Even faculty members were hit by racist slurs.

Assistant Professor Lynn Daggett was called a “nigger lover” by a telephone caller after a seminar in which the speaker endorsed minorities on juries, Stoudmire said.

Clarke confirmed that a faculty member received a racially harassing call, but declined to talk about specifics.

Daggett couldn’t be reached for comment.

Before the hate letters arrived, law student Dunn said he was aware of the racism. He declined to elaborate on the details or his reaction, but confirmed he plans to transfer to another school.

“I’m trying to put all of this behind me,” said Dunn, a graduate of University of California at Davis. His father and uncle are Superior Court judges in Los Angeles.

“How can you study under those conditions?” asked his father, Judge Reginald Dunn.

The school’s other two black students are planning to return to classes when the school year starts later this summer.

The four were the only blacks in the school at the end of the academic year.

A fifth black law student, Tanya McLeod, left Gonzaga at the end of the first semester, Clarke said, but the dean did not give a reason.

According to Stoudmire, McLeod left because of the racism. She could not be reached for comment.

Despite the harassment, Gonzaga is continuing its efforts to enroll more minorities, Clarke said.

Last year, the incoming class was made up of 15 percent minorities, nearly double the number from the previous incoming law school class. This year’s incoming class should be made up of 15 percent minorities, too, Clarke said.

At least three more blacks are expected to enroll during the fall semester. All of the minority applicants were told about the racist incidents, Clarke said.

The racial harassment “makes it very difficult for us to achieve our diversity goals, but it makes us more determined,” he said.

He said Gonzaga is stepping up security for minorities, and faculty members have made themselves available for individual instruction. Counseling was also offered to the student victims.

Uri Clinton, a black law student and intern with the state appeals court in Spokane, said he understands why his classmates want to transfer.

A scholarship student, he said he won’t be leaving. He believes the school is doing what it can .

“I’m not disappointed. The instruction is incredible,” he said.

Clinton said he never received face-to-face racist comments, but overheard racist jokes apparently told to embarrass and hurt him when he was nearby.

The students got the first hate letter on April Fool’s Day. It was hand-delivered to the mail slots and was signed by Law Students for a Pure America.

It asked for the help of racist Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler in “cleaning up” the law school.

That night, students disclosed the mail incident at an awards banquet known as the Heidelberg. State Supreme Court Justice Richard Guy and other prominent graduates were there.

Shocked by the mail, Guy wrote the law school condemning racial hatred and supporting the black students. “The truth is we want them and need them,” he wrote.

Student organizations called a rally on April 4 to condemn racism. It was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

The second letter was delivered April 9 and said “none of you lazy niggers will be graduating from this law school.”

The letter told the blacks to leave or they would become “martyrs.”

Clarke said similar racial incidents occurred at other universities last spring, including the University of California at Berkeley’s law school, Boalt Hall.

“Hate and racism know no intellectual boundaries,” Clarke said.

Juliana Repp, former president of the Multi-Cultural Law Caucus and a Native American, said she was never racially harassed at the school, but became alarmed when she saw black students being targeted.

One hate letter made a reference to “all inferior minorities.” That put every minority student on edge, Repp said.

Any law student who would write such malicious letters does not belong in the legal profession, she said. “Their behavior is not only morally and ethically wrong, it’s legally wrong, and they don’t belong in law school.”

Law school administrators learned about Stoudmire’s desire to withdraw after her telephone interview with the newspaper last week.

Clarke said he won’t try to stop her. “I am going to do everything I can to help her succeed as a lawyer,” he said. “I admire her courage more than I can express.”

Stoudmire said she probably will return to Gonzaga when classes resume in August because she doesn’t have time to be accepted to another school. Her grades suffered last semester, making it harder to transfer quickly, she said.

She said she is planning to finish her degree elsewhere.

Stoudmire said the racism went beyond the law school. She said she was followed by a woman while shopping. At restaurants, some waitresses told her they didn’t serve blacks, she said.

She came to Spokane because of the natural beauty and the reputation of the school, and was surprised to find racism part of the landscape.

She said she was never told by Gonzaga administrators of the university’s proximity to the white supremacists in North Idaho.

“I didn’t know where Hayden Lake was until I got there,” she said.

The Aryan Nations compound is at Hayden Lake.

Clarke and other school officials said it’s difficult to screen students for racist views because those who hold them are not going to admit them on an application.

“What’s come out of all of this is there’s a lot of hostility in that school,” Stoudmire said.

The school needs to get serious about cleaning up the problem, she said. “They let those people in, I didn’t.”

, DataTimes


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