Racist letter inquiry continues

By Sean Noble

Anonymous racist letters received last month by at least six university officials and student leaders still are under investigation, but will not immediately affect plans for February’s Black History Month programs.

Larry Robertson, director of the Student Association’s Minority Relations office, said the writers of the letters have not been identified yet. He said little was known of the origin of the letters except that they were postmarked out-of-state.

Robertson declined to say from which state they were mailed.

Letters threatening racist actions at NIU during this semester were received shortly before Christmas by six NIU administrators, including NIU President LaTourette, his assistant Kenneth Beasley, Student Association President Jim Fischer, Jon Dalton, vice president for student affairs, and George Shur, director of University Legal Counsel.

LaTourette said Tuesday the letters concerned “the disrupting of campus activities during the month of February, which is Black History Month.”

He said the letters were turned over to the Legal Counsel Office and the postal inspection office for investigation.

Beasley said the note he received was “very offensive.” He said he tore it up and threw it out before he discovered others had received copies, and had to piece it back together for inspection.

Robertson said, “(The writer) could be just one person out there with a sign, or it could be 60. We don’t know.”

He said little can be done to create responsive or preventive action until the source of the letters is identified. However, Robertson said he will be meeting Feb. 1 with the leaders of the nearly 40 minority relations organizations on campus to “try to plan a course of action in this situation. We want to be prepared,” he said.

NIU Ombudsman Bertrand Simpson said, “It’s unfortunate that such letters were written, but I don’t believe it’s unusual.” He said a community the size of NIU generally has people of many views, including such negative opinions as were expressed in last month’s notes.

Simpson said he did not receive any of the letters.

“The writer of the letter was probably the type of person who cannot be rationalized with about the way he feels. It sounds like the hardcore potential racist type,” Simpson said.

Simpson said the writer also could be someone who doesn’t like the idea of Black History Month.

Martha Palmer, an adviser to the Black Greek Council, said she thinks the university and officials are handling the situation with racism well. “I think the university will be able to deal with it. In a sense, we have to ignore these threats.”

Simpson said dealing with an issue such as this is difficult. “If the university doesn’t pay attention to a threat and something happens, then they look wrong. But if they do pay attention and nothing happens, they look wrong, too.”