The Black Student Union and First Generation Family student organizations were hosting a movie showing when two underage females, unrelated to the university, barged into the event location and yelled racial slurs at the students present at around 7 p.m. on Feb. 9.
“We were all shocked that that happened,” said Niala Cole ‘25, one of the students who were at the scene of the incident. “At first we thought it was students wanting to come and watch the movie but then they yelled [the slur] at us. So we were like, did that really happen? And since we were confused, we decided to follow them.”
After calling Public Safety, Cole said she and a group of students got up and followed the girls outside, while others stayed back in Hunsaker Plaza. Cole’s group split up into two, one group heading towards Melrose Hall and the other towards Irvine Commons, asking those present if they had seen the description of the perpetrators. The students caught up to one of them near the Chapel.
“And then from there, she was just threatening us,” Cole recounted.
The students continued chasing the individual off-campus while she yelled profanities at them. Cole estimated that it was about 20 minutes from when they first called Public Safety to when two officers arrived at the scene and stopped the offending individual. Instructed to stay at a distance, the students watched as the officers talked to the individual.
“And then eventually the [Redlands Police Department] came and they were only there for like a minute, and I feel like they spoke to her in less than a minute and then after that they let her go free,” Cole said.
The other individual was not found.
Aeon Bantu ‘26, another student present at the movie showing, recalled feeling “confused” and “disappointed” when the incident occurred.
“But mostly we were just hurt,” Bantu expressed.
The sentiment was shared by University President Krista Newkirk in a university-wide announcement email responding to what happened.
“This incident is deeply distressing and will not be tolerated on our campus. As a University community, we condemn all racially motivated harassment and realize that, sadly, there is still so much work to do to fight racism in our communities,” writes Newkirk.
Other students also reported a suspicious man near the event that same night, but this case is still under review by Public Safety.
The next day, on Feb. 10, the Office of Campus Diversity and Inclusion hosted a support session in the Hunsaker building. Among those present were Senior Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christopher Jones, Vice President for Administration Finance and Administration Michelle Rogers, Director of Event and Office Services Mackenzie Dawes, and many other faculty and staff at the university.
“These are the times we have to rally around one another,” Jones said. “I can’t imagine this is some random event. Somebody put some thought and desire to be hurtful and cause damage.”
Addressing the university community gathered at the session, Interim Chief of Public Safety Andrew Flores explained the challenges that occurred the previous night. The two Public Safety officers present at the scene tried to keep the individual for as long as they could, but as Public Safety is only private security and not the police, the officers could not detain her, Flores said.
Furthermore, according to Flores, the patrol cars were at the station while the officers were not, so they decided to pursue the perpetrator on foot instead of going back to the Willis parking lot, which explains the delayed response that had been raised as a point of grievance for many students.
“It was a decision made on the spot,” Flores said.
Receiving many calls from different students with conflicting information also hindered the officers’ ability to assess the situation, Rogers added.
The Bulldog has reached out to the university for an interview with the two Public Safety officers, Sergeant Erika Edwards and Officer Tony Bonilla. However, they could not be reached due to scheduling conflicts.
When asked how the university community will be able to prevent these individuals from coming into campus and harassing students again, Flores stated that Public Safety has the name and picture of the female on their no-trespassing list. However, this information cannot be given out because the individual is a minor, Flores said.
Although the motive behind the girls’ actions is still unclear, Flores doubted that her action could indicate larger coordination from an organization.
“This is learned behavior,” said Flores. “It’s the home she comes from.”
Nonetheless, Flores assured the crowd that Public Safety would be working with the Redlands Police Department to look into that possibility.
Flores then discussed several future solutions to prevent similar incidents from reoccurring. One solution is to implement a card access system, which would stop persons unaffiliated with the university from coming into campus buildings. Flores also mentioned expanding camera installation on campus.
In the immediate aftermath, however, Flores suggested student organizations could request Public Safety to lock the venue door before their events started and appoint a member to be a “door monitor.” Flores also discouraged students from directly confronting harassers like they did the previous night.
This point from Flores caused a wave of dissenting voices, with one student expressing her dissatisfaction and distress at Public Safety’s dismissal of their concerns.
“Whether 25 or 14 years old, [the university students] have the right to feel what they feel,” responded Admissions Operations Manager Joy Clark. “Do not villainize them. […] We will not let hate win.”
Agreeing with Clark, Flores explained that such cautionary measures are for the unfortunate likelihood that these individuals would be armed. Instead of direct confrontation, students should “follow from a safe distance” and be a “good witness.”
Other members of the crowd also suggested further prevention measures. Elizabeth Beck ‘23 proposed adding a checkbox on 25live, the university’s event-planning system, that would request Public Safety’s presence at student events. This was especially relevant as Beck suspected the offending individuals had found out about the event through the organization’s social media sites. The event location had previously changed from the Hunsaker lounge on the first floor of the Hunsaker building to the Bulldog room on the second floor due to technical issues, and this change was only communicated through social media.
The session ended with a strong message from Clark, urging BSU and First Gen to host the movie night again as a way to “grow together in peace and love.”
“Let’s all come together,” Clark said. “We’re not gonna let them win. […] Don’t let them steal your joy.”
Andrew Flores gives the following advice to students should an incident like this happen again:
“It is important that all members of the University community must take reasonable precautions to ensure their greatest level of safety both on and off campus. If you see something suspicious, report it:
- U of R Public Safety can be reached at 909-748-8888 or ext. 8888 from any campus phone
- City of Redlands emergency services can be reached by dialing 9-1-1
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times, on and off campus
- Don’t prop open locked doors or allow people to follow you into a locked facility
- Utilize the buddy system, especially when off campus
- Use the University RAVE Guardian safety app, available through the following link: https://www.redlands.edu/public-safety/rave-guardian/”
Photos by Photo Editor Kyle Eaton.