Throughout September, Bean house in Geoffroy Hall was defaced multiple times with a racial slur, and the community adviser (CA) said she “felt like these incidents were handled poorly.”
“On September 4th the house I am the CA of was vandalized,” said Liliana Delgado, the CA for Bean house and a junior in math. “Each house has a house name and in Geoffroy Hall, where I am, there is a wall before you enter the house with the house name on it.”
Around 3 p.m. on Sept. 4, a group of residents from the neighboring house, Berry, which is located on the same floor as Bean, took letters from their house sign and adhered them to the wall on the Bean sign to spell the slur "Beaner."
Beaner is a racist slur that targets Mexican people.
Delgado said she and others within the house identify as Mexican-American and were thus targets of the offensive vandalism.
“It is a big deal because it is racist,” Delgado said. “The vandalisms were of a racist nature and it had an impact. It impacted me, it impacted some of my residents and it impacted others in the building.”
Following this incident, Delgado had a meeting with the hall director and the CA of the suspected residents.
“We decided to call an emergency hall meeting later that night for both houses to kind of talk about what happened, explain why it is wrong and inappropriate and ask for any information,” Delgado said. “I went to the other house meeting and I spoke there for a little bit. I talked about what the word means and how offensive it is, so at that meeting, I publicly declared my Mexican-American identity.”
Peter Englin, assistant vice president of residence halls, said initially they had a house meeting about the Sept. 4 incident.
“Part of this is it’s still an ongoing investigation,” Englin said. “So I don’t want to get into too many details until we get through with our review [...]. We’ve been investigating this since September 4th.”
Delgado said no further action was taken for the incident and nobody from the Department of Residence or any other campus office reached out to her or the affected residents following the first incident.
At some point on the night of Sept. 18, a sign previously posted on the house had the words "More Beaners!!!" written on it.
The sign was a sheet asking residents for ways to improve Bean as a house, asking “What Can I Do to Improve Bean?,” and was discovered with the vandalism by the CA on duty during their 11 p.m. rounds, according to Delgado.
Once again, Delgado contacted the hall director to report the incident before calling the Iowa State Police Department (ISUPD), which had not happened for the first incident.
Two officers responded to the call and although she did not interact with them personally, Delgado said she was told they had suggested the slur was a nickname the house had given themselves and there was not much they could do.
“As the CA of this house, I can assure with great certainty that this is not a nickname we gave ourselves,” Delgado said. “Suggesting this vandalism is merely a joke or unoffensive downplays the impact this word has and its harm.”
Michael Newton, associate vice president for public safety and chief of police for ISUPD, said ISUPD were not involved for the Sept. 4 incident but became involved Sept. 18.
“We were called Sept. 18,” Newton said. “There was a notebook paper on the wall and somebody defaced that, we were called for that. We talked to folks involved, we talked to the person reporting and gave them resources. Department of Residence handled the Sept. 4 case [...]. They took care of that case so we weren’t involved with that.”
Newton said during the Sept. 18 incident they were informed about the events of Sept. 4.
“I believe it was some of the CAs on round that found the note on the wall,” Newton said. “I think it’s important to know the note had been on the wall, they were getting feedback from the floor, then somebody wrote the comment on the [note] that was on the wall. It was put up by the CA of the floor to get feedback.”
Newton said in the Sept. 18 case there wasn’t a crime committed, so they explained what university resources are available to students and staff.
“What happened is the officers send me and the leadership team an email because I sit on as part of the Campus Climate Response Team,” Newton said. “I sent [the email] out to all the Campus Climate Response Team members so that everybody is aware that a racial incident happened.”
After the information was passed onto the members of the Campus Climate Response Team, Newton said generally cases like the Sept. 18 incident are turned over to whichever area is responsible. This case was turned over to the Department of Residence.
“We take these cases seriously — it’s important to help get resources to people,” Newton said. “Unfortunately there’s not always a crime where police can do anything, but together we can tell people that this is not acceptable.”
Newton said ISUPD have a partnership with the Department of Residence and they are always working together.
“We’re also talking about other things we can do in the residence halls,” Newton said. “With joint training [we can] help people understand this behavior is unacceptable, we will not tolerate it, it’s not part of the principles of community.”
As with the first incident, Delgado said she had several follow up conversations with her direct superiors and nobody from any other office, including the Department of Residence and the Office of Equal Opportunity, reached out to her.
On the evening of Sept. 20, Delgado said she decided to take matters into her own hands and email a higher-up in the department with her concerns and frustrations.
“I emailed some higher-ups and I just said ‘hey I am frustrated and concerned for my safety,’” Delgado said. “This vandalism has happened twice, it targets me and at least one of my residents. I haven’t been given any support or any resources; I want to know what is going on. Fortunately, they responded within a few hours and we set up a meeting on the following Monday.”
The following Monday Delgado met with two higher-ups from Department of Residence and said she felt it was productive.
“I asked them to send an email to my house letting them know they are aware and doing what they can,” Delgado said. “That was done later that week. I also asked them to send an email to the other house that was suspected of doing the vandalism, letting those residents know that the [Department of Residence] is very aware. That has still not happened. I also asked for some sort of bias incident training to happen in my building, to which the response was they ‘would have to think about it.’”
Delgado said the Office of Equal Opportunity and the Campus Climate Response Team failed to connect with her after the incidences and it has been over a month since the second incident has occurred.
According to Delgado, of the eight to 12 people suspected for the first vandalism, only two have gone through the university conduct process regarding these incidences and they are still allowed to live in the building.
“I felt like these incidents were handled poorly and that there were gaps with miscommunication and lack of communication,” Delgado said. “I did what I was trained to do and it didn’t work; I wasn’t given the support, I wasn’t given the resources I was promised I would.”
The investigation of the Sept. 4 and Sept. 18 incidents remains ongoing. Englin said the end of the investigation depends on when the information comes in for confirmation on who is responsible for defacing the house name and what will happen next.