University of Utah police investigate hate crime reported at residence hall

Two students are suspected of shouting a racial slur at a contract worker, officials said.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, quiet and empty on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. University of Utah police are investigating a hate crime reported at a residence hall on campus, university officials announced this week.

University of Utah police are investigating a hate crime reported at a residence hall on campus, university officials announced this week.

The crime reportedly took place in late September as a contract worker was making a delivery to a loading dock at the residence hall, according to a statement from the university’s equity, diversity and inclusion department. The name of the residence hall was not specified in the statement.

As the worker made the delivery, two students in a room above the loading dock shouted a racial slur directed at the worker, then threw sunflower seeds and coffee pods at the worker, according to the statement.

The worker immediately reported the interaction to university officials, who were able to identify the students responsible “and hold them accountable through the conduct process,” according to the statement.

The statement did not name the students. Further information about how they were held accountable was not immediately released.

“Let me be clear, racist and hateful behavior on our campus is an offense to our entire community, particularly our communities of color,” U. President Taylor Randall said in a statement sent to students on Tuesday. “These actions will be called out for what they are — behaviors rooted in hate and racism.”

After the worker reported the interaction to officials, the worker was then connected with university resources, and in November, the worker reported the interaction to University Police, according to the statement. Police continue to investigate the interaction as a hate crime.

A request for more information about the interaction was not immediately returned by University Police.

“I will remain steadfast and vocal in our working with our leadership team to create a safe, welcoming and equitable campus that fosters values of respect, diversity, inclusivity and belonging,” Randall’s statement continued. “I encourage everyone on our campus to do the same.”

Witnesses and victims of a racist act may contact University Police, the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to report what they’ve seen or experienced, officials said.

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of The Council on American-Islamic Relations — a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization — released the following statement this week about the reported interaction: “We condemn this alleged hate incident and thank University of Utah officials for their swift action in investigating the reported racist behavior of the students.”