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Role of bias probed after Colgate University locked down over black student with hot glue gun

Click to play video: 'Colgate University president admits racial bias in campus lockdown prompted by black student holding hot glue gun' Colgate University president admits racial bias in campus lockdown prompted by black student holding hot glue gun
WATCH: Colgate University students protested Tuesday after the reasons behind the lock down came to light – May 3, 2017

HAMILTON, N.Y. – A New York college president says a campus safety director is on leave while officials review a lockdown prompted by a black student carrying a glue gun for a school project.

Colgate President Brian W. Casey posted a statement Tuesday saying the review will include the role of “implicit racial bias” during the reporting and response.

He said a student called campus security at around 8 p.m. Monday reporting a “black male” with what appeared to be a gun.

Several students who were on campus during the lockdown told Global News that the information disseminated by the school – including emails and social media alerts – described the suspect as an “active shooter” who was a black male, 6’2”, shirtless and armed.

Freshman and student senator Tolu Emokpae said many rumours began to fly about what was happening during the lockdown.

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“We received an alert from the school that said ‘active shooter’ and as you know, the definition of an active shooter is someone who has fired shots. So we were all very worried,” he said.

“It was very unclear from the beginning because there were no [audible] shots in the background, no victims that had been shot, just very unclear,” he said. “Someone had said there were two shooters and one had killed themselves, someone had said the shooter had gone towards off-campus housing. There was a sort of feeling of mass hysteria among the student populous.”

Online posts from students appeared to show armoured vehicles on campus during the lockdown. The university confirmed that local police were called to assist during the emergency.

Colgate University sophomore D’Jonitta Cottrell said the incident exposed underlying issue of racism on university campuses in general and hopes change will come from the top down.

“I want administration specifically to start acknowledging the racism and prejudice within their own circles,” she wrote in an email. “If we are an institution led by some individuals with extremely prejudiced beliefs (whether implicit or explicit), how can we expect that the student body will not also reflect that prejudice?”

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Casey said the review will examine the role of “profiling” in the response.

A part of his statement read: “It is important that we understand the role that implicit racial bias had in the initial reporting of and responses to the events of last night […] More egregiously, perhaps, was the effect profiling had on the response of safety officers and other University offices to these events.”

The students at the centre of the incident – the one who called police and the one holding the glue gun — have not been identified, but the president said that both have been contacted by the administration.

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In an audio recording of a Town Hall called by the president just hours after the lockdown was lifted Monday night, the student who had the glue gun spoke out.

“As a black man on Colgate’s campus, which is predominantly white, I’m a minority and that’s just something that is a fact. I can’t go around being angry at the world because that’s just how things are. […] People need to look at each other on the same playing field and understand that we are people that need to be treated equally. So yes, we can be mad about the situation and everything but at the end of the day, it’s a racist act and it shouldn’t have been done, and yes you can all be mad but I just want people to be having open arms if you’re going to protest.”
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Multiple attempts to reach the university for details on the campus safety director’s administrative leave and their plans moving forward to address any further racial tensions have not been returned.

– with files from The Associated Press

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