University of Utah investigating reports of KKK group in dorms, feces smeared on Black student’s door

The incidents prompted new reviews after a student questioned on social media why they hadn’t been addressed.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The University of Utah is pictured on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The Salt Lake City school is investigating reports of a KKK group on campus, as well as an account of feces smeared on a Black student’s door.

The University of Utah is investigating a report that a group of men walked into a dorm dressed like the KKK, in white hooded robes, in early October.

And the school is looking into a second incident from a month earlier, when a Black student reported a substance that appeared to be excrement was smeared on the door of their dorm room in the same building.

The two incidents drew attention late Sunday night after a student at the Salt Lake City school posted about them on Instagram, questioning why they had not been addressed. Now a U. spokesperson says residential housing officials and campus police are reviewing the incidents again, after initial investigations were inconclusive.

The cases are also being looked at by the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team at the U. A statement from the school Tuesday notes that, despite the earlier investigations by other school officials, that team was only alerted to the incidents when they were shared on social media.

In the first incident, which occurred on Sept. 1, a Black student reported returning to their dorm room to find it covered in a brown substance, with a paper towel lying on the handle, according to the U. spokesperson. The student believed it was feces and cleaned it off with the help of staff before reporting to their resident adviser, or RA.

The U.’s housing office reviewed footage around the day and couldn’t see anyone approaching or at the door. The school spokesperson, though, said the cameras might not have covered the specific area. They have not publicly identified which dorm the student lived in.

The student was immediately moved to new housing.

In the second case, which allegedly happened on Oct. 1, an RA reported overhearing some students in the student’s original dorm building talking about seeing some men dressed in KKK attire trying to recruit students to a white supremacist group. The U. again looked through three days of video but did not find anything fitting that description, the spokesperson said. She later clarified that the report noted that the men dressed in the white robes were inside the dorm.

After that RA’s report, another student’s report from the same day was added to that file. The student reported finding a substance they also thought was feces smeared on their door. The spokesperson initially thought it might be a car door, but later said they weren’t sure. The student didn’t immediately contact police, and the school hasn’t been able to corroborate that report.

The spokesperson said they were not sure if either incident was being considered a possible hate crime, but police are looking at both again.

In the statement Tuesday, the school also added that the vice presidents of Student Affairs and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will be reviewing internal processes at the school to “improve systems moving forward.”

The school added: “Acts like this, perpetrated within residence halls — which should be spaces of sanctuary and safety — strike fear and frustration in our students and community members when they are already feeling vulnerable. This is the third incident reported in as many weeks, and we understand that the community, especially our Black students, are feeling exhausted, targeted and disconnected but we must remain vigilant in 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.”

If students have information about any of the incidents, they are asked to report it to housing staff at 801-587-2002 or university police at 801-585-2677.

The U. also noted: “The university strongly condemns the KKK and white supremacy, as the values held by these groups are contradictory to a sense of safety and belonging for our community.”

The incidents are the latest to happen at the school. The university also opened a case in September after two students allegedly shouted a racist slur at a contract worker as he was making a delivery to a loading dock at the dorms. The students then apparently threw sunflower seeds and coffee pods at the worker.

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 an earlier statement from the U.

At the time, U. President Taylor Randall said: “Let me be clear, racist and hateful behavior on our campus is an offense to our entire community, particularly our communities of color.”

Prior to that, in January 2020, a car was marked with the N-word on campus — shortly before the celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

University officials say the graffitied racial slur was done by someone pressing their finger into the frost on the car’s windshield and was not permanent. They identified multiple individuals involved, according to a statement from the school, and took “appropriate actions.”

The school — as well as others in Utah — has had issues recently with white supremacist groups coming to campus, hanging up posters and stickers and trying to recruit new members. That came to a dramatic head in February 2019 when Identity Evropa, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, hiked the hill to the concrete block U above the university and laid down a banner that declared, “End immigration!”