IWU’s response to Rainbow Floor vandalism leaves residents dissatisfied

By Farah Bassyouni Feb 4, 2022
Photos from the morning of October 15, 2021, around 4:07 am. The Aromantic pride flag left hanging after being partially torn down. Just one of the many incidents that has occured on the Rainbow Floor. Photos by Connie Kim.
Photos from the morning of October 15, 2021, around 4:07 am. The Aromantic pride flag left hanging after being partially torn down. Just one of the many incidents that has occured on the Rainbow Floor. Photos by Connie Kim.

The “Rainbow Floor,” on the first floor of IWU’s Pfeiffer Hall, is meant to be a safe space for IWU students who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community. But when Pfeiffer and Rainbow Floor students received what many students believe to be an overdue email this week about vandalism on the floor, that opinion shifted. 

 

The email, sent by the Office of Residential Life (ORL) on January 27, addressed what the administration called ‘incidents’ on the Rainbow Floor.  The email stated that said incidents  would not be tolerated and asked for information on who has been taking down the Pride flags on the Rainbow Floor over the past few months. 

 

According to Rainbow Floor RA Rory Sloan, the first incident occurred on October 9 after midnight. They received noise complaints regarding a group of four to five white males  drunkenly running down the hallway, body slamming into the door of one of the Rainbow Floor residents, and tipping over the trash cans. Sloan left their room to report the complaints, only to find that one of the Pride flags just outside their door had been torn down.

 

“When I was going upstairs to report the incident, I saw them leaving the second floor acting very drunk and they didn’t have their masks on,” Sloan said.“When I asked them to put them on, they were straight up dismissive and acted like I didn’t have the authority to do so.” 

 

According to Sloan, they recognized them as residents of other Pfeiffer floors, and suspected they were the same people who tore down the flags. Shortly after, campus Safety was called to look through camera footage and review card swipes. It was found that the camera footage showed the same group walking upstairs with traffic cones in their hands and passing the turned over trash cans at the exact minute the Pride Flag was torn down. The reviewed card swipes also aligned with the suspects.

 

“It was the same guys I had written up for a mask violation,” Sloan said. 

 

The security guards saw the traffic cones, the possession of which is a violation, and suggested they knock on their door to get the cones as well as confront them with the footage they have of their potential involvement with the flag being taken down. But ORL’s reply to this suggestion discouraged that approach, and said that since there was no actual footage of them physically tearing down the flags they couldn’t knock on their door. 

 

As far as Rainbow Floor residents knew at that time, there was no follow up and no further action taken by the university. As time passed, Sloan “wrote up about 4-5 incident reports of these same guys, mostly for not wearing their masks”. 

 

Around two weeks later, on October 15, more noise complaints were lodged by residents and another flag was seen torn down. 

 

“This time, the cloth was ripped and it was clearly by force,” Sloan said. “Someone had yanked it down.” 

 

Still, there was no official communication from the university or ORL at this point, and residents believed that their safety was in danger and felt anxious about being in their residence hall or going from their rooms to the bathroom. 

 

Most recently, on January 15, Sloan said that one of the flags that had just been repaired disappeared. They heard banging noises from upstairs, where the suspected vandals are thought to reside. 

 

“There were noise complaints of yelling, stomping and slurs being yelled,” Sloan said. “There was a very clear smell of cannabis, and many residents were texting me that they’re ready to go up to these guys’ door to complain.” said Sloan, 

 

Sloan then called campus safety, who reported to Pfieffer around 2:30 a.m., and knocked on the door. The noise was reported to have immediately stopped and there was no response from the residents. 

 

As they were considering using the master key to open the door, Sloan said one of the residents opened the door just enough to stick his head out and they got hit with a wave of the cannabis smell. “He told campus safety they just woke him up, he’s super tired and asked them if they could come back in the morning. He says his friends, then corrects himself and says ‘roommates’, are all asleep” Sloan said. 

 

Since there was no verbal consent to enter the room, the officers were unsure as to what to do. 

 

“I thought if you smelled cannabis and if the noise complaints were severe enough, they could enter the room,” Sloan said, adding that they were shocked when the officers let him go.

 

The next morning, the flags turned up in the communal lounge of the 3rd floor. 

 

When asked about the sequence of events, Dean Karla Carney-Hall said she could not comment except to say that campus safety officers approach events on a case-by-case basis.  

 

The next morning, campus safety switched the motion-sensored cameras to recording 24/7 and informed the RAs that they would alter the patrol routes so that they passed through and around Pfeiffer more often for the next week.

IWU Campus Security sign
Photo by Samira Kassem

 

“We had as much proof as we could get in a residence hall. The assistant directors felt as though there was a lot hindering them from being done, but I don’t know what. If they could get enough proof, they could get kicked out of Pfeiffer. Yet, they’re still here,” Sloan said. 

 

“I feel like the students who did this need to face consequences,” first-year Connie Kim said. “They’ve been at it for over a full semester. It’s ridiculous that I’m paying to live here and I don’t feel safe in my room.”  

 

The emails from ORL came at a time when the residents, particularly the Pride Alliance who had recently filled out a bias report, had been fighting for a stronger institutional response. 

 

When asked about the university’s delayed response, Dean Karla said there wasn’t one in terms of investigation. “Where I have regret is that we didn’t communicate fully, letting the community know that action was being taken,” Carney-Hall said. 

 

She said that while they were acting in good faith, but they need to be better about “making sure that our actions are visible to the community.” 

 

Dean of Students for Inclusion and Awareness Prince Robertson said, “There was a thorough investigation done [in October], as right now.” He said that they had an immediate reaction that was just not communicated to students. 

 

“I can assure you that any student names have been or will be met with. I know that this is happening, but we can’t comment on the consequences of that,” Carney-Hall Dean Karla said. 

 

For some students, that’s not good enough. 

 

“I had been talking to some people in administration, and there was pushing for Dean Karla to release a statement” said Jasmyn Taylor, a student member of the Pride Executive Team. 

 

“When I filled out the bias report, it redirected me to the one that was filed in October by Rory, the RA. But like, it’s January and nothing has happened. The school likes to be hush hush about these things. I probably would not have known about it had I not been on Pride Exec,” Taylor said. 

 

Nina DeBoni, another member of the Pride Executive Team and a resident of the Rainbow Floor, said “it’s compounded with the hesitancy to call it a hate crime. They need to call it what it is. They need to treat it with the importance that a hate crime demands. That’s what hurts the most—not to mention, the damaging effect that it has on everyone’s mental health here.”

 

When told this, Dean Karla and Dean Prince didn’t seem opposed to calling it a hate crime.  There was a recognition of this being a “hate-charged incident”, and a validation of their failure to communicate their handling of the situation to the students. However, there was hesitancy to associate it with criminal activity as of right now, since they are still gathering evidence.

 

“I think the school is failing on multiple fronts. There should’ve been something more,” DeBoni said. 

 

Student Senate Vice President J.D. Barett emailed IWU’s deans the day before the ORL emails went out to the Pfeiffer residents. “As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who is not particularly involved with Pride or the Rainbow Floor, I would have liked some sort of response or information from the administration so that others not directly involved with those two groups knew about the incident(s),”  Barett said.

 

Carney-Hall  and Prince said they will discuss how to hold people accountable for these actions. But they clarified that despite not communicating it, action has been and is being taken in this ongoing investigation. 

 

“It’s unacceptable. We want our Rainbow Floor and students to know that we support them,” Carney-Hall  said.

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