In an ideal world, a Black student could roam around campus carrying a glue gun for his art project without fearing he could be confused for an active shooter. But this is exactly what happened at Colgate University, a liberal arts school in New York, on Monday night. The campus was on lockdown for about four hours because someone reported a Black male was carrying a "gun." The thing is, the "gun" the suspected student had was a harmless glue gun.
Colgate President Brian W. Casey posted a statement Tuesday saying the review of the "difficult, painful" situation 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. The liberal arts school then issued a Twitter alert about an armed person and said a law enforcement search was underway.
The tweet read, "Colgate Alert: There is an armed person at the Coop. Find a safe space and remain indoors. If you are off-campus, stay away."
After four hours, the incident was cleared by campus security.
"After thorough investigation, and with the assistance of the person in question, law enforcement identified the individual as a student who was using a glue gun for an art project, confirmed the misunderstanding, and released the campus from lockdown," read a campus alert to Colgate students.
President Casey called out the racial bias that led to a Black student to be profiled in this incident.
"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," Casey wrote on his statement. "I want to make sure we speak with those who made and received the initial report to understand the role this played."
He continued, "More egregiously, perhaps, was the effect profiling had on the response of safety officers and other University offices to these events."
Campus Safety Director Bill Ferguson, who was in charge of the security efforts at the time of the incident, was asked to take an administrative leave as the university reviews what happened.
"My obligation is, first, to demand a full accounting of what happened. My next obligation is to take steps to ensure the safety of all Colgate students, faculty and staff," he said. "My final obligation—my desire—is to improve Colgate. If there is anything that can and should come from these events it must be that concrete steps are taken to make Colgate a better place, and a university worthy of both regard and respect."
Casey said he will have a report within 10 days and will share the findings.