Message from President Howard

November 08, 2012

Shortly after 11 PM on November 6, a group of about 40 students gathered near the Minority Student Union (MSU) house.  In a display of partisan anger, members of the group set off fireworks and broke bottles in response to the presidential election results.  At some point, members of the group shouted racial epithets at the men of MSU threatening them with physical harm.  The members of MSU notified campus security.  The incident lasted less than 45 minutes. The situation was defused and the group largely dispersed by our own students, including fraternity officers, exercising leadership and good judgment.  Just after midnight, Dean of Students David Klein and I went to Fraternity Circle and spent approximately one hour meeting with students to determine what happened.

I am terribly disappointed with the students who participated in this harmful, senseless episode including those men who stood idly by and watched it happen.  There is no place for bigotry or racism at Hampden-Sydney. In response to this incident, I called a Town Hall meeting for the night of November 7.  Nearly 300 members of the Hampden-Sydney community gathered to address this incident and its implications for our community.  I was moved by the responses of our students and the numerous young men who spoke to renew their commitment to our student code of conduct and to reaffirm their desire to live in an inclusive and respectful community. 

Also gratifying has been the support expressed by parents as we address this incident and the impact on our community.

The Dean of Students has assigned an experienced investigator from our campus security team to this case. 

Building on the tremendous outpouring of support from last night's Town Hall meeting, I have asked the Intercultural Affairs Committee led by Dr. Rene Severin to submit a plan on how we can better educate students on what it takes to ensure our community is one marked by inclusion and respect. 

We are an institution of higher learning and, although those individuals responsible for this incident will be dealt with, it should also serve as a teachable moment, and it shall.