Story by Zach Avery, News Editor
Photos courtesy Zach Avery and Raymond King
Updated October 2, 2020: The Saint has received from Aquinas College administration documented information on the following points in the article “Letter containing hate speech left under AQ student’s door”:
The RA followed procedure when filing the Bias Incident Reporting Form. The student was contacted that night by the director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, who remained in contact with the student until Sept. 18, when they met. President Quinn sent an email to the student on Sept.16th. On Sept.18th, CDI&E informed the student that they had no leads and his next step would be involving the Grand Rapids Police Department, which he declined. A follow-up email was sent to the student on September 24th and did not receive a response.
The student clarified to The Saint that his quote about the RA’s response did not focus on the reporting process, but on the way he was treated. The student confirmed that he received the email from President Quinn but was dissatisfied with its content. He said he was not informed of the college’s judicial process, which led him to decline further investigation from GRPD. Additionally, he said he felt uncomfortable involving police in the current political moment. Finally, the student said he did not receive the Sept. 24th email.
This article was modified to reflect accurate information about the proposed meeting between the victim and Student Senate.
The folded letter was slid under his apartment door at St. Martin’s, and the scrawled message was legible enough: “GO HOME F—— N—–!”. Not even six weeks into his first year at Aquinas College, 21-year-old Raymond King has already been on the receiving end of a targeted hate crime.
“I’ve been called worse,” King said, “Worse things have been said to me. But never a letter or an anonymous letter.”
Raymond King is a political activist, and he’s lived in or around Grand Rapids for all his life. It takes bravery to stand up for your beliefs, and King has channeled that bravery through avenues like volunteering around his local community, or by sharing his voice on sites like Facebook.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong,” King said, “So, I’ve been stirring the pot, trying to see where people lie, and confronting them about if they have racist attitudes or if they’re xenophobic.”
Though this kind of hate speech that he is referring to isn’t anything new, the fact that the offender maintained their anonymity struck a nerve with King, who had always considered Aquinas his dream school. This dream began years ago, and it was fulfilled with King’s entrance into the Student Senate as a representative at the beginning of this semester. But, it was also a dream that only took six weeks to sour.
An email written by Aquinas College President Kevin Quinn, Ph.D., was sent out to all staff, faculty, and students Sept. 16, condemning the racist action and warning that any similar behavior will not be tolerated on-campus. Quinn wrote, “This event is a hate-fueled crime, and we are working with campus and local authorities as appropriate to investigate the matter.”
The incident was only one week after Bishop David Walkowiak had declared Sept. 9 as a day of praying and fasting for the eradication of racism, commemorating the feast of St. Peter Claver, the patron saint of African Americans, slavery and interracial justice. A similar racist incident has also occurred at Grand Valley State University, where a non-student perpetrator “Zoom bombed” the kick-off meeting for GVSU’s “Black Male Scholars” organization.
In Quinn’s Sept. 16 email, he reminded the reader that any Aquinas community member that has been the target or witness of a bias-related incident should report it in the appropriate form provided on the Aquinas website. King is familiar with this form.
“The only person that I talked to where I went in-depth about what actually happened was with my R.A. when I reported it,” King said, “And even at that, he admitted that he didn’t know exactly what to do, so I think that was the first omen that this wasn’t going to be a good process.”
After a call with the R.A.’s advisor, he and King referred to the bias report form that is available on the Aquinas College website. Two days later, King was approached by members of both Residence Life and the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. They both encouraged King to attend counseling sessions if he needed any extra help, and they also asked King if he’d like them to refer him to the Grand Rapids Police Department so that an investigation could proceed.
“I think that was the second omen I received that this wasn’t going to end well,” King said, “I truly believe if they did find the perpetrator they wouldn’t have to refer to GRPD until the judicial review was resolved. So, it was really early, it was only two days after the incident happened, and basically what I was hearing was, ‘We don’t have any leads, if you want the GRPD to come in and do their own investigation they can.’ Ever since then I have not heard from any administration, President Quinn, anyone.”
The Saint scheduled a virtual meeting with the president of Aquinas College, Kevin Quinn, and the director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, Alicia Lloyd, in order to verify the claims made by King.
“The first place we go to when something like this happens is Campus Safety,” Quinn said, “We have various video recorders on the entrance to this particular apartment. They reviewed that, looking for anybody who didn’t belong there. But they didn’t find anything.”
The next step in the administration’s process would have been the referral to the GRPD or FBI, but both Quinn and Lloyd preferred speaking with King first.
“Both the Area Coordinator and I met with him and gave him that option, and he declined,” Lloyd said.
Though King initially declined the offer, President Quinn made sure to express during his interview that the opportunity to involve the GRPD or FBI has not passed.
“In this particular case, what was reported was, in my judgement, a federal hate crime,” Quinn said, “I think if I had to do this again, I would not hesitate to call in the FBI from the beginning. But we were very concerned about making sure we didn’t make this worse for this student than it already was, and we were, properly so, being deferential.”
A meeting between the Student Senate’s executive board and President Quinn (with King present) was meant to occur sometime this week, where both parties would discuss Aquinas’ process in investigating the racist incident.
Over two weeks after Raymond King first found the racist note underneath his door, not much more has been shared from the college to the student body on the ongoing investigation into the hate crime. After receiving only minimal contact from AQ after his rejection of taking the investigation to the police, King cannot help but feel that he’s been left out of his own experience.
“At the very basic level, just keeping me up to date about what’s happening,” King said, “Where you are in the investigation, being completely transparent and obvious, saying, ‘We don’t have any leads, we don’t have the resources to see who did this.’ I would’ve still been a little angry, but at the same time I would’ve appreciated the transparency. And so far I haven’t gotten any of that.”
And what’s been done with the letter itself?
“I gave it to the R.A. of my apartment, and she told me that they needed to keep it so they can have it on record and filed,” King said, “It’s kind of weird, but after the dust has settled, I’m going to try to request it back so I can frame it, and hang it inside my room. I think that’s going to be a testament one day where I look back and I can tell my friends, my family, hopefully my children, that when I received this letter I did everything I could to confront racism.”
Despite King’s disappointment in Aquinas’ process, he is grateful for the incredible amount of support he’s received from the students he’s met on campus. Especially his three roommates who talk with King everyday, making sure to check up on him whenever they can.
President Quinn implored Aquinas College students to consider our mission statement and non-discrimination policy, both of which promote inclusivity and servant leadership.
“Anybody that has information about how this happened, we want to hear about it,” Quinn said, “Send me an email, because we will pursue every lead we have. I also will defend our decision to not pursue an investigation with all the tools that may be available to us, out of deference to the wishes of this student. I think it’s not inappropriate to defer to them in this. I’ll be honest with you, I’m kind of on the fence about whether or not that was the right thing to do in retrospect.”
Raymond King has written a short essay that is meant as his personal response to the racist event, which can be found below: