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SALT LAKE CITY — A contractor working at a University of Utah residence hall was called a racially derogatory term while working on campus in September, according to U. officials.
The contractor was making a delivery at a loading dock when two students in a room above the dock shouted the racial slur, and then threw sunflower seeds and coffee pods at the person, according to the U.'s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion department.
The incident was immediately reported to campus officials, and the two students were identified and held accountable through the U.'s conduct process. The man who was targeted was connected with U. resources and subsequently reported the incident to University Police in November, the U.'s statement says.
Police are currently investigating the incident as a hate crime since the incident included intimidation motivated by bias, the U. said.
"Let me be clear, racist and hateful behavior on our campus is an offense to our entire community, particularly our communities of color," U. President Taylor Randall said in a statement sent to students on Tuesday. "These actions will be called out for what they are — behaviors rooted in hate and racism. I will remain steadfast and vocal in our working with our leadership team to create a safe, welcoming and equitable campus that fosters values of respect, diversity, inclusivity and belonging. I encourage everyone on our campus to do the same."
Randall said he was recently made aware of the incident, though it occurred in September. Further details about the incident weren't given.
The university asked people to be vigilant and speak up if they see someone committing a racist or biased act or if they are on the receiving end of such an action. Incidents can be reported to University Police, the Racist and Bias Incident Response Team or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.
"We are stronger and more capable as a community when we build an environment where everyone feels welcomed, heard and accepted for who they are," U. Vice President for Student Affairs Lori McDonald said. "We are committed to meeting acts of hate — which compromise this culture — with actions of consequence when they violate the law or university policy. We will continue to provide support and resources to those targeted by this type of racist behavior."
The recent death of 10-year-old Isabella "Izzy" Faith Tichenor has put incidents of racial harassment back into focus in Utah. Izzy died by suicide on Nov. 6 after family members said the girl, who was Black and had autism, was bullied at school. The Davis School District has initiated an independent investigation into her death.