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ACU students say hate crime highlights racism on campus

By Jennifer Kendall, jkendall@ktxs.com
Published On: Apr 02 2014 09:39:22 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 03 2014 02:03:09 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Several students at Abilene Christian University are outraged after a fake parking ticket with racially offensive language was left on a black student's car.

On March 18 J Sheppard found one version of the fake parking ticket on his car.

"The offense says, ‘black people don't drive nice cars’ and that's really a very close minded and, to me, a racist thing to say,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said it implies ‘you can't do anything nice. We can't have nice things.' I don't know. It’s just disheartening is what it is," said Sheppard. 

Sheppard reported the incident to campus police. Police say they have video of the incident and are still investigating. Sheppard was not the only one targeted.

"There were several of these prank parking citations that were left that night too that were racially offensive -- others that had other notations on them that were equally offensive though not racial."

Police said racial discrimination isn't typical on ACU's campus.

"We’re not aware of anything in the recent past that was offensive or intimidating or racial in nature," ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said.  

Several students disagree.

"I'm a senior here at ACU. And over the last four years that I've been here, I've seen multiple incidents of racism or discrimination," said T'Neise Ragland, president of the Black Students’ Association.

Ragland said this is the first physical act of racism that she's encountered on campus, but racism occurs in other ways more often.

Ragland said she’s been quiet for long enough.

"We take it in stride," Ragland said, "and we know that we chose to come to a school that's predominantly white, but we also thought we were coming to a Christian school."

ACU Executive Vice President Dr. Allison Garrett released this statement Wednesday: "As important as it is to resolve the matter now under investigation by our police department, we want to more broadly discuss issues of concern to our African American students. There have been multiple meetings with individual students and there are efforts underway to schedule additional meetings. We feel it's important to listen."

Ragland and Sheppard said they've tried to talk with university officials in the past, but were eventually told to take it up with the university's Student Life office.

"It just makes me feel like ACU does not care about the nonwhite students here on campus. Or specifically the black students here on campus. Because we’ve sat down, we've emailed, we’ve tried to reach out, but we’ve always hit this glass ceiling," said Ragland.  

Police said they are working to identify the suspects in the ticket incident. Once they do, the suspects could be criminally charged, and if they turn out to be ACU students, they can also be punished by the university.