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Two South Jersey men have been charged in connection with a racial slur written on the door of a Black Rowan University student’s dorm room.
Officials confirm 19-year-old Alston Willis was charged with writing the slur and 20-year-old Danny D’Agastino was charged with trespassing. A third man involved has not been identified.
University spokesman Joe Cardona said the three people involved in the incident were not Rowan students, but were allowed into the Holly Pointe Commons by a student who attends the school.
“You’d hope that they stay with whoever brought them,” he said. “But in this case, the three gentlemen were in the hallway by themselves without their host that brought them in.”
According to The Whit, Rowan’s campus newspaper, the student discovered the message “I hate n*****s” written on her door decorations Sunday. After taking the decorations down, another hate-driven message was scrawled on the student’s door. In an interview with the paper, the student’s older sister expressed sadness for her sibling and frustration with university officials for what she said are incidents that occur “year after year.
Cardona said they have reached out directly to the victim to offer them help as well as other students.
“We recognize that this could be a trigger event for other activities that might have happened in the past for other students,” he said. “So we offered counseling services and our different offices that are normally engaged in these situations.”
In a letter to the campus community informing them of the incident, University President Ali Houshmand reminded students that they are responsible for their guests.
“We are committed to Rowan being a place where students feel comfortable, a home away from home,” he said. “Be mindful of your guests’ actions and be cautious about opening doors to your residence hall for people you don’t know.”
The student who allowed the three men into the sprawling Holly Pointe Commons will also be held accountable, according to Cardona. Action will be taken against the third man once he’s been identified. He adds that the incident caused tension while Rowan University Police and the New Jersey Office of Attorney General Bias Crime Unit conducted the investigation.
“Part of the challenge that we have, frankly, is that sometimes in these investigations, we really can’t talk about the investigation on an hour by hour basis or a day by day basis,” he said. “What happens is things quickly escalate online and people think that things aren’t happening, but they actually are.”
Students held a rally on Rowan’s campus in November to protest discrimination and racial intimidation.