Allegations of Racism Directed at the University of Wyoming
The Principal of St. Stephens Indian High School is calling the University of Wyoming’s investigation into the Sept. 26 incident at the University Store involving six St. Stephens Indian High School seniors and allegations of racial profiling by UW employees “an insult to the intelligence of myself, the students and their parents, and every reasonable prudent citizen of our Nation.”
A total of 10 seniors from St. Stephens Indian High school visited UW two weekends ago as part of the “Campus Pass” program. They were given a tour of campus on Friday, and six of the students went into the University Store on Saturday morning before the football game. Allegedly, a customer in the store told one of the employees that one of the students wearing a St. Stephens shirt had taken an item and put it in their bag without paying. According to St. Stephens Indian School Principal Cheryl R. Meyers, the six students and two chaperones were rounded up; campus police were called to conduct a search. According to a description of events from the UW Office of General Counsel, “No items purchased from the store were in the bags, nor were there items from the store in the bags that had not been purchased.”
Yesterday, the University of Wyoming released a memo detailing their investigation into the incident involving six students and two chaperones at the University Store on Saturday, Sept. 26. The report was sent to UW President McGinity on Tuesday, Oct. 6, and concludes by saying “There exists no evidence of racial profiling or discrimination.”
Principal Meyers described her problems with the University’s investigation in a press release dated Oct. 8, including the way that allegations of racial profiling by University employees were investigated.
“The report repeatedly specifies that the identification of the students was based on the students wearing ‘white t-shirts with red lettering,’ why did the report not identify what the ‘red lettering’ said (St. Stephens INDIAN School) [?] It is clear that the students’ race was clearly at issue and identifiable by the ‘lettering’ on the t-shirt,” says Principal Meyers. “There were two other individuals in the bookstore at the time wearing the exact [same] t-shirt who were not searched or detained. Both of those individuals were Caucasian.”
The press release from St. Stephens Indian High School highlights certain elements of the University’s investigation.
“First, any legitimate investigation should consist of identification of and interview of [every] witness involved in the incident,” says Principal Meyers in the press release. “In this case, not one staff member or student from St. Stephens Indian High School was contacted by the University’s investigator at any time.”
The press release questions the handling of the incident and subsequent investigation by University officials.
“President McGinity met with me on Friday, October 2, 2015 to express his interest in handling this situation in a professional manner. He stated that the investigation was not completed, however he would let me know when it was and we could work together to move forward in a positive way,” says Principal Meyers. “I was not given an opportunity to speak with the President McGinity prior to the University releasing the investigative report.”
The University says “President McGinity attempted to reach the principal multiple times by telephone before the findings of the investigation were released.”
Principal Meyers also takes issue with how the search of her students was conducted by UW Police.
“The report did not state that the students were told by the university bookstore employees that ‘You cannot leave’ and that a male bookstore employee stood in the doorway of the bookstore preventing the students from exiting the store,” says the press release. “…the perception by students and St. Stephens staff members was there was no choice in the matter. Commands were given, and our students are instructed to obey commands of people in a position of authority.”
The memo from the University’s Office of General Counsel asserts that “there was no violation of University Regulation 1-5 which prohibits discrimination based upon race.” In the press release, Principal Meyers was concerned with other issues.
“Why was there no conclusion… on whether the University staff violated the students’ rights as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment… made applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment?”
Meyers will make a formal recommendation to the Superintendent and School Board of Trustees of St. Stephens Indian School about “moving forward” on the issue.
The University of Wyoming says it stands by the investigation, and that President McGinity attempted to reach Principal Meyers by telephone multiple times before the findings of the investigation were released.
The University also stated that it is “working to assure that it provides a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds.”