The black bag had been sitting on the steps of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt University all day Tuesday.
Then a graduate student working at the building got curious that evening and opened it up — and discovered it contained feces.
First campus police were called, according to the Vanderbilt Hustler, the student newspaper.
Then the grad student phoned Frank E. Dobson, Jr., director of the Black Cultural Center and an assistant dean at the school, who rushed to the scene.
Dobson then emailed Dean of Students Mark Bandas, who also high-tailed it to the Black Cultural Center, the paper said, accompanied by Tina Smith, director of the Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence.
Then students found out.
Thing is, there was protest at Vanderbilt the day before during which a list of demands on alleviating racism, signed by almost 200 students, was hand-delivered to Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, the Huslter noted.
The general consensus was that the black bag of feces left of the Black Cultural Center’s steps was a racially motivated act.
A student group by the name of Hidden Dores, which brings to light minority experiences at Vanderbilt, was outraged and vented on Facebook over the “deplorable” act.
“The Hidden Dores team is appalled to announce that our demonstration yesterday was met this morning with a vile act,” the now-deleted statement read, according to the paper. “This morning someone left a bag of feces on the porch of Vanderbilt University’s Black Cultural Center.”
“This act has hurt many and will not be received lightly,” the Hidden Dores statement went on. “We will not allow for the desecration of the place we call home. As we announced yesterday and reaffirm today, we will not be silent.”
Then that night, police said they found the perp.
Security cameras revealed that the bag had been left on the steps the previous night by a blind student who had just picked up after her guide dog.
More from the Hustler:
Junior Stephanie Zundel was meeting a group of students to study for her sociology class at the BCC on Monday night. When her service dog relieved herself on the BCC lawn, Zundel did what she always does when she doesn’t know where the garbage cans are located — Zundel cleaned up the mess and left it by the nearest building, which happened to be the BCC.
“The one thing that guide dog school trains every student to do is that if they don’t know where the garbage can is, you still always pick it up and put it in the bag, that way no one steps in it,” Zundel told the paper. “But then you leave it outside of a building that way someone else who sees a garbage can put it in there.”
Zundel got a call from police, and her roommates told her about the Hidden Dores post, which she told the Hustler that she read. And while Zundel indicated she supports the group, the tone of the post was troubling.
“The thing that bothered me and upset me was that the post was written very extreme, and what happened was they wrote it without any investigation,” Zundel told the paper. “So there were a lot of assumptions being made.”
Later that night the university released a statement saying campus police found “no criminal or malicious intent in this action, and the investigation is considered closed.”
Hidden Dores deleted its original Facebook post and got a new one up:
It has recently come to our attention that we were absolutely misinformed about a situation that happened this morning at Vanderbilt’s Black Cultural Center, where a black bag filled with fecal matter was left at the front doorstep of the place that feels most like home to many Black students on campus. We have discovered that the fecal matter was not left at the BCC by a vindictive member of this community. A VUPD report released at 11:26pm today reads: “The investigation found that the bag was inadvertently left by an individual with a service dog who was authorized to be in the building, who could not find a trashcan near the entrance, and did not want to take the bag inside.” Given the recent elevation in polarization on this campus in the aftermath of our silent protest this Monday, evidenced by tough personal exchanges and anonymous targeted posts, it was too easy for us to believe that a member of our community would stoop low enough to maliciously leave fecal matter at the Black Cultural Center. Nonetheless, we apologize to the Vanderbilt community for jumping to conclusions and for any personal trauma caused by the quick escalation of this situation. We have personally contacted Stephanie Zundel and apologized for our reaction to the nature of this incident. At this moment, we recognize that the needs of students with disabilities on this campus are also often marginalized, and there are improvements to be made to make the perfect Vanderbilt experience accessible for all of its students. In an effort to contain the situation, the original post has been deleted at this time.
Zundel added that she feels marginalization as well, given her disability.
“So I just feel very hurt, and in the post specifically it says things about the facing exclusion and isolation, which I totally understand, since me being a blind person, I’m also a minority on this campus, and I also face separation and exclusion and discrimination,” she told the Hustler. “And I’m definitely affected by it, too.”
Dobson told the paper that the misunderstanding is related to the fact that “issues of race are on the front burner in our nation’s communication. And so everybody’s charged about issues of race, everybody’s charged about issues of inclusivity and exclusivity, everybody’s charged about possible hateful acts of racism.”
“What this says to us is we have to do a better job at becoming a caring community,” he added. “A community that doesn’t hasten to quick judgments when it comes to issues of race and difference, but a community that also can care for all of the parties involved in these messy situations. Maybe that’s the best metaphor, that the piece of poop on the porch of the BCC is a metaphor for race relations in America. Race relations in America are messy, nobody wants to touch them. And when we do touch them, sometimes we get messy. But the real question is how do we deal with the mess? White people and black people. How do we deal with the mess in a way that as an institution, as Vanderbilt, our students can become better able to deal with the mess that’s going to confront them when they leave Vanderbilt?”
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