This letter was sent in a campus-wide e-mail on Nov. 9, 2011:
Dear Members of the New Paltz Campus Community:
Yesterday (Tuesday, November 8), a racially offensive sign was posted over a water fountain in a campus building. Other campus leaders and I join students, faculty, and staff in condemning such an act, which is clearly inconsistent with our campus values of equity, mutual respect, and inclusiveness. We do not tolerate such acts on the campus and are interested both in determining responsibility and in using this incident as a teachable moment for the campus community. One of our aims must be to prevent future occurrence of such actions, whether they are based on race, national origin or ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, or other dimensions of diversity.
The above incident was reported to campus police, who took immediate action to begin an investigation. It is critical in such a case for the University Police Department (UPD) to move quickly to secure evidence. Thanks to the cooperation of a student and a professor, a UPD officer was able to secure the sign that had been posted, and the investigation is continuing. UPD Chief David Dugatkin spoke at Student Senate last night about this matter and the investigation that is being pursued (he had been scheduled to be there for another purpose). UPD will continue this effort, including canvassing the area where this incident occurred (standard police procedure), to elicit assistance from community members who might have witnessed someone place the sign. Our officers also use this opportunity to educate the community about our collective commitment to create a respectful campus environment. If you have information about this incident that would be helpful in the investigation, I encourage you to share it with UPD.
I have been approached by Student Association President Terrell Coakley to collaborate in organizing a forum to discuss this incident and related campus-climate issues. I welcome the opportunity to work with student leadership on such a forum.
Such incidents remind us that the College is a microcosm of a diverse nation that must continue struggling to achieve true equity, inclusiveness, and respect. Please know that campus leadership takes such matters very seriously.
Donald P. Christian