Stephens students hope a town meeting resolves recent offensive events

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COLUMBIA - Stephens College students and faculty had a campus meeting Tuesday night to address an offensive sign posted on a campus statue.

Some students said they didn't know about the sign until after Destiny Thomas, a student at Stephens, posted a Facebook video on March 21, explaining the situation and how she was being accused of putting up the sign.

"Based on the whole situation, it seems like a black woman was profiled for a hate crime, and the messed up part of it all is the fact that this hate crime will affect her and yet she was blamed for this hate crime," said Joyce Gayo, a Stephens student.

"It was this big,huge discriminatory issue that happened on campus. It was not handled in the proper way," said Jenna Young, a freshman at Stephens. 

In her video, Thomas said she was accused of posting the sign on the Sursum! statue on campus. She said she was interviewed by Vicky Owles, former vice president of student development, and Ken Hammond, director of safety and security. 

Thomas said surveillance video showed a person with a black jacket with a fur-lined hood who Hammond and Owles believed to be Thomas. Thomas said it couldn't have been her because she was at work. She was also offended because she is a black woman.

Thomas said the sign said, "It’s okay to be white. --A cis white male.”

Some students said racial tension has been on the campus.

"It's ridiculous, honestly. We're a small liberal arts college. You would think that this wouldn't happen here, but it honestly happens on this campus all the time whether it be from faculty or students," Young said. 

Young also said this is not just a Stephens problem, but a problem on campuses everywhere.

Gayo said students need to know about these events.

"These little scenarios affect our community, and the fact that we were not aware of it is very problematic. It was also problematic that a black woman was accused for it as well," Gayo said.

According to the Columbia Missourian, Stephens College President Dianne Lynch called the meeting and said the event was being investigated. Lynch told the Missourian she wants students to have a safe place to voice their concerns and opinions about this events and similar issues on campus.

Simone Gregory, a sophomore at Stephens, said the way the security department handled the situation made her feel unsafe as a black student.

"On my own security team at my school, it makes me feel unsafe. Who am I supposed to count on? Who am I supposed to rely on to have my back because are they going to do the same thing to one of us?" Gregory said.

Students have been calling the signs acts of hate crime. 

According to Thomas and other students at Stephens, there was another sign posted on one of the bridges on campus, but the college hasn't confirmed what the sign said. 

Gayo and Gregory said they hope the meeting will open discussions about diversity and helping all students feel safe on campus. 

KOMU 8 contacted Stephens College, but the media relations department said it was unable to comment by Tuesday's deadline.