Racial Slur on Gateway Heights Whiteboard

Current Status:

Although we believe this situation has been addressed in a way that should prevent future reoccurrence, those who believe they have been the target of bias, intolerance or discrimination may report an incident to the public incident report form (bias and intolerance) or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (sexual misconduct and discrimination).

Please direct any questions or concerns in regard to this bias incident to the Special Assistant to the Chief Safety Officer at RBIresponse@utah.edu.

What happened

On February 9, 2022, a Resident Assistant (RA) reported that on February 4, 2022, a resident found a racial slur referring to individuals of Hispanic or Latina/o/e/x background written on the whiteboard on the door to her residence. The floor where the incident occurred is an all-female residence floor, and shortly before the writing was discovered, one of the residents in the room overheard what sounded like two male voices just outside the door talking. One of the individuals outside said “hey, you can’t write that dude, that’s a slur.” The resident who was inside the room assumed nothing happened because of that intervention, but when her roommate got home, she noticed the slur “b*****” written in dry erase marker on the whiteboard. The roommate immediately erased it so it is unlikely that many others would have observed the defacement. Neither of the residents of the room identify as Hispanic or Latina/o/e/x and so it does not appear that this written word was targeted at them, but rather a visitor to the floor chose to write on a random door.

As a note, we are heartened to hear that in this instance, someone attempted to intervene to stop the behavior – although ultimately unsuccessful. Stopping this type of behavior takes collective action and bystander intervention efforts are one way of combatting conduct that can is wrongfully seen as a prank or joke but can cause real harm. To learn more about how to incorporate bystander intervention into your toolkit, check out the information here: https://wellness.utah.edu/workshops-training/#bystander.

What is being done

The incident was reported to Housing & Residential Education and the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team and the reporting residents and RA were encouraged to report to University Police as well.

Perpetrators of incidents like this can difficult to identify; however, if you have any information related to this incident (or others) that may help, please report by filling out the form at the Office of the Dean of Students website. Or you can report to University of Utah Police by filling out the Silent Witness form.

If through the course of some review or investigation (by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, University Police, or other appropriate investigative body) any university community members are identified as having perpetrated this incident, the Office of the Dean of Students, Human Resources, or other appropriate leader, will act within university policy designed to hold the individual(s) accountable and, if appropriate, provide additional education about the harm caused to the community by this type of behavior.

Housing & Residential Education (HRE) will post messaging throughout the Gateway Heights residence hall calling out inappropriate and racist behavior, encouraging folks to speak up, providing support resources, and reminding them that they are welcome, valued and belong in our community. HRE will also review its programming and other educational programs related to creating inclusive environments and will explore collaboration with experts on campus to review best practices to help residents feel a heightened sense of belonging.

What to do

Be vigilant and speak up. If you see someone behaving suspiciously, engaging in defacement or vandalism, or notice racial epithets or slurs written or displayed in residence halls or around campus, note the location and notify a campus official. If you are interested in learning more about the variety of resources the U offers to support diversity and inclusion, please visit the Office of the Dean of Students in the Union Building, Room 270, deanofstudents@utah.edu, 801-581-7066, or Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Park Building, Room 208, or https://diversity.utah.edu/our-team/. To find out more about resources available to University residents related to equity, diversity, and inclusion, visit the Equity Lounge. To make a report of a racist or bias incident, visit the public reporting form

The U is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion

The words written evoke white supremacy and remind us that a violent and racist past is still with us today. Acts like this do damage to residents’ and students’ sense of belonging in a time that we are already feeling disconnected and when we are still striving to ensure that all our staff, students, and faculty are able to find a place of safety and belonging as a part of our campus community. 

While we will not tolerate such behavior, when done covertly, we cannot stop the act in the moment. What we can do—and what we will do—is build our anti-racist muscles. We will continue to name the racist acts, investigate, and hold the perpetrators of these hateful acts accountable when they are identified.  Additionally, we will proactively implement efforts that uplift and celebrate our communities as we witness an increasing number of racist acts on our campuses across the nation. As part of the upcoming Day of Collective Action being held on March 22, we will host listening sessions and design thinking seminars to explore actions that can be implemented to enhance the sense of belonging across the University. We will not allow a cowardly act to divide us or make us fear one another. This is the time to draw together and call out these acts when we see them.

Questions & Concerns

For any questions or concerns in regard to this bias incident, please contact Brian Jay Nicholls, Special Assistant to the Chief Safety Officer, at RBIresponse@utah.edu.

For additional reporting information, please feel free to visit here.

Response process
Support Resources

If you are currently in a situation where immediate medical, police or other emergency services are needed, call 911 or University Emergency Communications at 801-585-2677 (801-585-COPS). To file a complaint regarding discrimination or sexual harassment, contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA) at 801-581-8365.

Support & resources
Report a Bias Incident

Any act of intolerance, motivated wholly or in part by bias or prejudice against an individual’s race, color, ethnicity, age, religion, size, disability, national origin, language, gender, veteran status, identity expression, sexual orientation or age—regardless of severity—can be reported using this form.

Submit a report