Student newspaper outraged after campus police include suspect's race in crime alert

Following allegations of sexual assault in a campus residence hall, Texas State University police released a suspect description.

The suspect profile stated that the clothing of the African American suspect was unknown.

The student newspaper claimed that all Black men on campus were placed in “immediate danger" as a result.

Texas State University is being heavily criticized by the school’s student newspaper for a crime alert sent out by campus police that included a racial description of the suspect. 

The “Your Right to Know” alert notification described the suspect as follows: “A 5-foot-11-inches tall Black male with a beard, mustache, medium length hair and unknown clothing.” 

According to the University Police Department website, the TXState alert system is utilized to send text messages and emails to campus faculty and students when an emergency occurs that could create a dangerous situation. 

[RELATED: University of Louisville apologizes for crime alert that failed to be ‘anti-racist’]

An editorial in the school’s newspaper stated that the alert was referring to a sexual assault crime that allegedly occurred in a residence hall on campus.

“The alleged incident was valuable information to the community, and Texas State made the right call by sending out the alert,” the University Star editorial read. However, it took issue with the details included in the message sent to students.

“But Texas State did not just send an alert to students, faculty and staff about an ongoing security threat. It also invoked fear,” the editiorial board explained. “The university painted every relatively-tall Black man with facial hair as a suspect.”

[RELATED: Students see spike in reported violent crime after University of Minnesota cuts ties with Minneapolis Police Department]

”We take issue with the university not waiting until it gleaned more information on the alleged suspect. By sending such a vague description to the community and not specifying the exact location of the alleged incident, Black men anywhere on campus at the time were placed in immediate danger,” the editorial continued. 

The University Star cited an article from The Opportunity Agenda, which stated that “Blacks are overrepresented as perpetrators of violent crime when news coverage is compared with arrest rates.” It also said that the alert released by the UPD at Texas State contributed to this problem by not providing sufficient information.

Continuing on this point, the Star’s editorial claimed that “Black people are more likely to be arrested than their racial counterparts.” 

According to the FBI’s 2019 Crime Report, “69.4 percent of all individuals arrested were White, 26.6 percent were Black or African American, and 4.0 percent were of other races.”

“This country’s criminal justice system has molded us to unconsciously associate crime and violence with Black communities,” the Star writes. “That same unconscious bias has led people to cling to the myth that is Black on Black crime.” 

[RELATED: UNC fined $1.5M for misreporting campus crime stats]

The FBI also provided expanded homicide data tables, and according to statistics from the website, 2,925 Black individuals were murdered in 2018, and 2,600 of those victims were killed by other Black individuals. Among White individuals, 3,315 were victims of homicide in 2018, with 2,677 being murdered by other Whites. 

On Feb 1, Texas State University President Denise Trauth wrote in a message to the community noting the school’s efforts to address racism. 

“During the summer of 2020, we worked with our university community to hold three listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff of color; a university-wide Day of Reflection and Solidarity to recognize and acknowledge, in part, the challenges, grief, and struggles we were collectively experiencing in our world, nation, and university community following the death of Mr. George Floyd; and two town halls to facilitate important conversations on topics of race, transgenerational trauma, justice, and law enforcement,” Trauth wrote.

Trauth has led efforts to rename two buildings on campus as well as two streets. She has also created a task force of scholars from the Departments of History, Political Science, Sociology, and the University Libraries to analyze the names and recommend further actions.

The University Star recognized these actions, but also stated that “Texas State’s actions this past weekend are a reflection of how the university has regarded its Black students for far too long. The harm this university placed Black students in cannot and should not be understated.”

Campus Reform reached out to the university and campus police but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @abbyystreetman