Chicago native Alicia Hardin, 19, an African American woman, was charged with a hate crime and disorderly conduct after confessing to sending three letters that contained racial slurs and threats against minority students at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.
About 300 minority students had been evacuated from the campus last week after officials learned of the threats. The school enrolls about 1,000 undergraduates and more than 2,000 graduate students. Minorities make up about 26 percent of the student body.
Students were evacuated after school officials determined that their safety was at risk. One letter said the writer had seen the student in chapel. "I had my gun in my pocket but I wouldn't shoot," the letter ended. Students returned to campus for classes Monday, and Hardin confessed that night. Tuesday, police released her on $5,000 bond.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Hardin didn't want to attend Trinity. She was hoping to convince her parents that the school was too dangerous for her to stay. The Tribune writes:
Hardin was among more than two dozen students interviewed by police and the FBI, authorities said Tuesday at a news conference in Bannockburn Village Hall. When called in for a second interview, she confessed in a written statement, Lt. Ron Price said.
"The reason she gave for the deception was that she was unhappy at Trinity International University, but her parents wanted her to remain at Trinity," Price said.
Hardin yesterday sent a message to a classmate saying she had done no wrong and had been forced to confess, the Tribune reports.
Greg Waybright, president of Trinity, said, "This is an agonizing moment for Trinity, one that is unprecedented for our university. We are heartbroken by this revelation because we consider each student a member of our family. So, we have heavy hearts. But, at the same time, we have a sense of relief because this difficult situation appears to be resolved."
The Tribune reports that other campuses have had similar racially motivated hoaxes:
In 2002, three black freshmen confessed to writing racial slurs in a residence hall at the University of Mississippi. A similar incident occurred at Northwestern University in Evanston in November 2003, when anti-Hispanic graffiti was scrawled on a wall and a poster near a student's dorm room. The student, who described himself as the son of an interracial couple, told police he was the victim of racist harassment and a knife attack before confessing the reports were fake.
But Christian colleges are fighting the impression that racism thrives on campus. Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of God on the Quad, a book about Christian colleges, says, "There is a tacit assumption now that most Christian colleges, particularly evangelical ones, also have a streak of racism running through them."
In an article for Religion News Service, not yet available online, Riley says non-whites at Christian colleges can see racism operating subtly. "Minority students on religious campuses often see themselves as there to fill a particular gap, not just to receive an education," she says. But Riley defends Christian colleges against accusations of racism.
At a press conference, Trinity's president Waybright, explained why Christians value diversity. "Those who are followers of Jesus Christ come from every nation, language, and people group. Although we are very diverse, we belong to one another as a part of the human family and of our eternal spiritual family of faith."
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